A pre-dawn fire in Birch Hills, southeast of Prince Albert, Sask., has destroyed a condominium project just a few weeks away from completion. ((Submitted by Danny and Carroll Birkland))

A condominium project in Birch Hills, Sask., just southeast of Prince Albert, is in ruins after an early-morning fire consumed the estimated $5 million complex.

Dozens of firefighters from the community and the nearby Muskoday First Nation tried to limit the damage, but they did not have all the equipment they needed to properly attack the flames.

Firefighters were on the scene around 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

Danny Birkland, Birch Hill's acting fire chief, told CBC News that they put a call in to Prince Albert, 40 kilometres away, to help out with a ladder truck.

He said the request was turned down.

'We had many families standing on the sidelines today crying.' —Birch Hills, acting fire Chief Danny Birkland

The development, with four floors and 24 units, was under construction and Birkland told CBC News that he suspects a portable heating unit may be responsible for the blaze.

"We're taking an educated guess," Birkland said. "The building was under construction and we think it was a construction heater that started [the fire] on the top floor."

The building was about one month away from being ready for occupancy.

"The top floor and roof is all gone, and we've managed to save the other floors, but they're very much damaged. So I'd say it'd be a total write-off," Birkland said.


Local firefighters did what they could to fight the blaze, but the building is believed to be a total loss. ((Submitted by Danny and Carroll Birkland))

"It's a huge blow," he added. "We have several families now that have sold their homes and are now without a home. Their new home that they were going to go into is a pile of ashes. We had many families standing on the sidelines today, crying."

The building was empty at the time of the blaze.

Birkland said battling the blaze was dangerous and one of their volunteers was slightly injured and taken to hospital as a precaution.

"I haven't gotten in touch with him yet," Birkland said. "He was coming down the ladder and a burning beam fell on him [and] knocked him off the ladder."

He said the fire was under control about two hours.

An official investigation into the fire was expected to start on Tuesday.