Sixteen people have been forced from their homes after a fire gutted two wooden buildings and damaged two homes on Mecklenburg Street early Sunday morning.

Fire crews responded to a call just before 2 a.m. They said the fire started in an unoccupied wood building and quickly spread to the neighbouring building.

"Well at first it was all smoke and then I could see it was coming from the back of the building. In no time at all it attached to the other one," said neighbour Sonya Dunn.

Platoon Chief Peter Saab with the Saint John Fire Department said the frigid temperatures overnight made it a difficult fire to fight.

"It's terrible hard, because if you can have a look at the conditions we're working in, there's a fair amount of ice buildup around the building, so it makes it very hard to get around. And also like I say, just keeping our lines from freezing is a major deal," he said.

Massive icicles dangle from the power lines and nearby cars are encased in ice, reported the CBC's Matthew Bingley.

 

Two of the buildings partially collapsed.

The two homes next to the fire had to be evacuated, but only received smoke and water damage

Fire crews said everyone got out safely.

The tenants temporarily took shelter in a city bus. Nine adults and five children are staying at a Red Cross emergency shelter in Saint John.

The Saint John Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the fire.