A fire at a large condominium complex in southwest Edmonton that forced about 400 residents from their homes early Monday morning was caused by improperly disposed smoking materials, officials say. 

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Firefighters continued to put out hotspots in a condo fire at Hammond Gate and 199th Street. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC News )

Flames were shooting out of the roof of the building at Hammond Gate and 199th Street when crews arrived around 1 a.m.

The fire was brought under control about two hours later. Crews were still putting out hotspots around 6:30 a.m. 

Michael Caldararu lives on the first floor of the building. He went outside after waking to the sound of the building's fire alarm.

He said the fire didn't look like much at first, but that changed. 

“We saw the fire trucks get there, it seemed really small. But by the time they set up, it had spread throughout the attic, it just caught really quick,” Caldararu said. 

Kathy McNeill also witnessed how quickly the fire spread. 

“A little scary," she said. "Watching the progress on the building and wondering where it’s going to go.”

Michael Caldararu

Michael Caldararu was one of about 400 people who were forced from their homes by a condo fire early Monday morning. (CBC )

McNeill said there had been so many false alarms in the building that she had a bag sitting by the door to grab in case of an emergency. Ironically, the day she actually needed the bag, she left it behind. 

“It had a change of clothes, some granola bars, some water, some $20 bills,” she said with rueful laugh. “Enough to get by for a couple of days.”

Both McNeill and Caldararu said they will be staying with family and friends. 

Edmonton Transit buses were brought to the scene to take residents to a nearby church. The Red Cross and emergency social services were also assisting.

One resident was taken to hospital after being assessed by EMS.

Damages are estimated at $8 million. About one-third of the suites were damaged or completely destroyed.