Fire officials confirm roofing work caused a massive fire in Chinatown that destroyed four businesses and left four people homeless.

Heavy black smoke was seen billowing out of the second floor of The Daily Grind cafe at 601 Somerset Street W. around 11 a.m. Wednesday.

"This is a big fire that happened really fast and got out of control really fast," Ottawa Fire District Chief James Gervais told CBC News late Wednesday.

The cafe, located in a two-storey house, was connected to a two-storey brick building on the corner of Somerset St. W. and Percy Street that housed the Middle East Bakery and Shiraz Food Market on the main floor, as well as apartments upstairs. 

A Dark Cloud tattoo parlour, at 121 Percy St., was connected to the brick building and was also damaged.

No injuries were reported in the fire that caused an estimated $1 million in damage, Gervais said.

At 8 p.m., police were still advising the public to stay away from Somerset Street West around Percy Street, as road closures remained in effect.

Crews from multiple Ottawa fire stations doused the buildings with water through heavy smoke for several hours on Wednesday, as the street was shut down between Bay Street and Bronson Avenue.

Parts of the buildings collapsed, prompting emergency crews to create a security perimeter to keep people away. Some neighbouring residences were also evacuated.

By 5 p.m., crews began tearing down the charred remains of Shiraz Market.

"It's a safety issue. We want to get the neighbourhood back in order," Gervais said. "If you don't take it down now it will burn for probably one or two more days."

The Ottawa Fire Service investigated, along with the Ontario Fire Marshal.​

Gervais said a roofing company was working on the flat roof above the brick building that houses apartments, Shiraz Market and Middle East Bakery.

"It's a flat roof with tar and gravel so he would have been working with some hot substances," he said.

A three-storey building on the other side of The Daily Grind houses Fades International Barber Shop and Evangeline Flowers.

Heavy smoke rising into the air could be seen in the neighbourhoods of Chinatown and Centretown Wednesday afternoon.

Corrections

  • Ottawa Fire Services told CBC News on Wednesday that seven people were left homeless after the fire. Later, Ottawa Fire Services said four people were left homeless after the fire.
    Oct 22, 2015 12:50 PM ET