Police have identified two people killed in a weekend fire at an apartment building in a community south of Hamilton.

The fire broke out at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday at the 30-unit apartment building in Caledonia, and officials say it was contained to a single apartment.

Police say the flames were quickly brought under control but the rest of the building sustained water and smoke damage.

Donna LaPierre, 56, and Gerald LaPierre, 70, who were residents of a third-floor apartment, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Three other residents were taken to hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation while the rest of the building's residents were evacuated and have since been found temporary shelter locations.

Caledonia apartment complex fire cat

Firefighters found a cat, a female roughly one year old, near the apartment after the fire. (Sunnie Huang/CBC)

A post-mortem examination was scheduled for Monday to determine the cause of death for the two victims.

Restoration has begun at the apartment complex. Repairs started in units further away from the third-floor unit where the fire originated, according to Haldimand County Fire Chief Rob Grimwood.

Although the fire was contained to the unit, many homes at the 29-unit, three-storey complex suffered significant smoke and water damage, Grimwood said.

In particular, the units next to where the fire took place sustained significant smoke damage, and the units below were damaged by water.

Deaths hit community hard

The fire took place at one of the three apartment complex on Argyle Street North around 3 a.m. Saturday.

Firefighters arrived to find a "heavily involved fire," Gridwood said. They put out the fire fairly quickly and started searching for victims.

The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal is investigating. That may take several days.

All residents of the complex were evacuated immediately after the fire. Grimwood estimated about 70 people were affected. It is unclear when they can return to their homes.

Their neighbours' deaths hit the residents hard, Grimwood said.

"On the one hand, to be displaced ... is frustrating for them and there's not doubt," he told CBC Hamilton. "But on the other hand, it's such a tragedy they've lost two people in the building.”

Most displaced residents have found temporary accommodation through friends and family, Grimwood said. A shelter has also been set up to act as a gathering point for residents to pick up donations and receive updates.

Emergency crews also found several pets near the apartment after the fire and notified the SPCA. The charity will continue providing shelter and food for the animals while their owners sort out accommodations, Grimwood said.

Caledonia Community Foundation has set a relief fund for displaced residents. Those who wish to donate can make a cheque payable to the Argyle Heights Fire Relief Fund. The cheque can be mailed in or dropped off at 102 Inverness Street, Caledonia.

Clothes, food and other donation items can also be dropped off at the same location.