Montreal firefighters spent a chilly Friday night battling a fire in the east-end borough of MercierHochelaga-Maisonneuve. 

Firefighters got 30 people safely out of the building located in the middle of a row of attached triplexes on Ste-Catherine Street near the corner of Pie-IX Boulevard.

Four apartments were destroyed, while neighbouring buildings and ground-floor businesses were heavily damaged in the fire, which broke out around 9 p.m. Friday.

Fire officials could not determine the cause of the fire, prompting them to call in police arson investigators.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, the owner of a bar affected by the blaze said the fire was mostly at the back of the building. David Belisle said friends of his who lived in an apartment gutted by the fire did not have insurance. 

Those left homeless by the fire spent the night in the care of Montreal's Red Cross. 

Fire chief Benoit Brouillard said the extreme cold made the fire extremely difficult to fight. He said hoses have to be left running, otherwise the water freezes almost immediately.

"Our equipment is very [critical] and if there is a little bit of water in it and we are going outside, it's very tough for the equipment. It's freezing very fast, too," he said.

He said that heavy coating of ice on their equipment and on their uniforms added an extra challenge to fighting the blaze. 

Around 250 firefighters battled the fire in short shifts of an hour to an hour-and-a-half, in order to limit their exposure to the intense cold. 

Ste-Catherine Street between Pie-IX Boulevard and Jeanne-d'Arc Avenue remained closed as of 12 p.m. Saturday