The fire chief in North Sydney, N.S., is warning people about the dangers of leaving heavy garbage outside after a vacant laundromat was heavily damaged in a weekend fire.

Lloyd MacIntosh said the building burned after someone set fire to a pile of heavy garbage next to it.

"The sad part about it, it wasn't heavy garbage from the building that burned — it was from another building that people had put garbage beside this building," he said.

"Then a third party came by and set fire to it all."

Anita Andrews lives in an apartment building next to the vacant laundromat. She said she had to leave her apartment at five o'clock on Saturday morning.

"I could smell smoke but I didn't know where that was coming from and then the lady downstairs phoned me and she said I had to get out of the building because the flames were really coming out by this time, up past the roof," she told CBC News on Monday.

"Then a fireman came to my door and he said we had to evacuate."

Andrews was allowed back in her apartment about three hours later.

MacIntosh said the garbage that was set on fire was likely put out on the curb in advance of the residential heavy garbage collection day, which is set for a week from now.

He said people need to be careful about where they're putting their piles of heavy garbage, since a lot of the material is highly flammable and can easily ignite nearby buildings.

"Make sure there's a safe distance between the building and where you're putting your garbage and keep in mind the nature of what you're putting out," said MacIntosh.

"If you're putting out a chesterfield and chair, there's a very high content of fuel in that chesterfield and chair. Five feet or 10 feet may not be enough.

"The best advice? Just keep it inside until it comes time to be picked up."

MacIntosh said the building will be torn down on Monday.