Two fires in Saint John forced at least 29 people from their homes overnight Monday, and at one location firefighters trapped in an upstairs apartment building had to use a ladder to escape.

In the city's West Side, fire crews battled a blaze in a three-unit building on Manawagonish Road, across from Barnhill and St. Rose elementary school. The fire spread to a home next door and a third building had to be evacuated.

Eight displaced families are getting help from the Red Cross and the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Power was off in parts of the West Side and classes were cancelled for the day at Barnhill and St. Rose school.

In the city's South End, fire crews fought a blaze in a 12-unit building at the corner of Elliott Row and Wentworth Street, where some firefighters were briefly trapped in the upper part of the building and had to use a ladder to get out.

"Fire crews that were searching the building became trapped in the upper storeys as a result of fire travelling up through air spaces," said Rob Simonds, chief of the Saint John Fire Department.

"They had to vacate the building through a ground ladder and escape through the upper floor."

Simonds says the buildings are being inspected to determine whether it's safe for the occupants to return.

Dog tugged on leash

Tenants are being put up at a local hotel by the building's owner, said Saint John police.

Simonds said he doesn't think the fires are related but both are under investigation.

One Elliot Row resident said she has her dog to thank for getting her out. Tina O'Dell ran through her apartment building knocking on doors when she smelled smoke until she passed out.

"All of a sudden, I come to and he was pulling me on the leash. The leash was wrapped around my arm, and I crawled down the steps and out the door."

O'Dell, her dog and everyone else in the building made it out safely.

Another resident, Kim Wood, said she lost mementoes from her recently deceased father.

"Just stuff from when he was a kid and my dad died at 56 years old, so I came back with all his stuff and now it's gone," she said.