WATCH ABOVE: Manoir Edith, a social housing unit to help mentally ill patients reintegrate into society, is nothing but an empty shell after a blaze engulfed the building Friday afternoon. Rachel Lau reports.

MONTREAL – Manoir Edith, a social housing unit to help mentally ill patients reintegrate into society, is nothing but an empty shell after a blaze engulfed the building Friday afternoon.

“It was very difficult because we saw, some people were already in the bus of the Red Cross and they were looking at the fire and some of then were in crisis,” said Dorotha Auger, the Executive Director of the Friendship Volunteer Association.

A photo of a 5-alarm fire in downtown Montreal snapped by the city’s mayor, Denis Coderre on February 28, 2014.

Denis Coderre/桑拿会所

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One-hundred-and-fifty firefighters battled the blaze all night as it raged through the three-storey building just two blocks away from the Bell Centre. They were still on the scene Saturday afternoon.

“When the fire is in the structure of the building it’s very tough for the firemen to attack it because we don’t see the fire when we arrive,” explained Benoit Brouillard, Chief of the Montreal Fire Department.

READ MORE: Montreal mayor live-tweets major fire near Bell Centre

Firefighters said that they believe the blaze began in the basement and quickly spread upwards to the roof.

The heat, according to some witnesses, was unbearable.

“We had to walk down (the) parking lot back here to get to our hostel and you could just feel the fireballs from the structure,” said Sam Roxon.

“We spent a few hours in the cafe across the street watching it and it grew and grew,” said Tyler Letofsky.

“A few hours later, the whole building was just engulfed in flames. We couldn’t even see the building anymore.”

Over a hundred firefighters battled a blaze that destroyed a building in downtown Montreal that was home to dozens of mentally ill residents on March 1, 2014.

Francois Joly/Global News

An arson squad was on the scene Sunday, but Montreal police insist this doesn’t mean this fire is was intentionally set.

“If it’s an arson, if it’s a suspicious fire, if someone dies in a fire in Montreal, it’s the arson unit from Montreal police,” said Simon Delorme, a spokesperson for the Montreal police.

“But it’s also when the cause of the fire is unknown or not 100 per cent established by the fire department.”

After the police finish investigating the site for suspicious activity, a demolition crew will tear it to the ground.

“There is a lot of damage and we want to make sure that there is no problem to collapse the building everywhere in the streets,” said Brouillard.

The 42 residents are temporarily staying in a nearby hotel.

Though no one is injured, they’ve lost everything.

“There was one of the members who said ‘My teddy bear was burnt,’” said social worker Bella Snyder.

“He said ‘Can I come back there today and get my teddy bear?’ There’s no teddy bear for him.”

The Friendship Volunteer Association is asking for help for those who have been displaced by the blaze.

Anyone interested in helping or providing donations is asked to call 514 931 5757.

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