Nearly 200 people from the Valhalla Inn spent most of Thursday night out of their rooms after the building was evacuated because of a fire.

The fire department said a fire in the ceiling of the Timbers restaurant was put out quickly, but it was about four hours before it was safe for people to return.

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An early-morning fire in the ceiling of Timbers Restaurant at Thunder Bay's Valhalla Inn forced about 200 people from the building. (Valhalla Inn)

The general manager of the Valhalla said the fire department had people on three city buses within half an hour.

"Red Cross was right behind them and Salvation Army was right behind them," Mary McLellan said.

"In terms of community support and response, it was incredible."

She noted the damage to the restaurant was extensive and the Runway 25 restaurant will likely be closed for a day or two.

Thunder Bay Fire and Rescue are investigating the cause of the fire in the restaurant's ceiling, which caused heat and smoke damage.

Platoon Chief David Long said it was a rough situation for those who were evacuated. Some people wanted to get back in their rooms, including one woman who was in town for emergency medical treatment. There were also several skiers in town for this week's national competition. 

"They had to get back to get their skis … and some of their equipment for their contest," Long said.

"So we were glad to get them back in time to pick up their equipment."

Long said people had to leave the building shortly after 1 a.m. and were able to return at about 5:30 a.m.