Elderly residents flee Saint-Eustache apartment building as fire spreads at 'incredible speed'

After spotting the flames early Monday, a mechanic hopped fences to knock on people's doors at the low-income apartment complex.
The fire at a Saint-Eustache apartment building spread quickly Monday morning, forcing 30 residents out. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

A low-income apartment complex in Saint-Eustache, north of Montreal, caught fire early Monday morning, sending about 30 elderly residents out of their homes. 

The complex was not equipped with a sprinkler system. No one was injured, but two people were treated for shock.

The Red Cross is helping people find temporary places to stay.

Firefigthers say the call came in at 6:20 a.m. Serge Daigneault, a mechanic, was working at a garage nearby when he saw flames through one of the apartment units' balconies.

Daigneault says he jumped over fences to get to the building, stopping at one point to ask a man to call 911. 

He then climbed onto people's balconies to wake them up and alert them to the fire. 

"I was knocking and yelling, 'Get out, get out!' but the fire was spreading everywhere," said Daigneault. 

He said several of the residents appeared to be in wheelchairs.

"The fire spread at an incredible speed," said Daigneault, who injured himself in the process and walked with a limp. 

He said he was sticking around to give firefighters his version of events, but that he would get it checked at a hospital afterward. 

Saint-Eustache fire chief Charles de Rouville said 80 firefighters from several surrounding municipalities battled the fire. 

Saint-Eustache fire chief Charles de Rouville says the building's roof was made of a material that burned quickly. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

He said firefighters were trying to identify the fire's cause, but that it appeared to have started in a third-floor unit. 

De Rouville also said the building's roof was made of a material that burned quickly, and that the structure was almost completely destroyed.

With files from Radio-Canada