An incident in Halifax is raising eyebrows after firefighters smashed the windows of a vehicle in order to access a fire hydrant while battling a blaze in the city’s south end.

Firefighters were called to a structure fire at a commercial building at 5280 Green Street around 5 p.m.

When firefighters arrived, a vehicle was blocking the fire hydrant directly in front of the building, so crews broke the back windows of the vehicle and ran their hose right through it.

Pictures of the hose running through the vehicle have been circulating online, garnering thousands of shares and comments on social media.

While many people are criticizing the motorist’s decision to park in front of the fire hydrant, others are questioning whether the firefighters could have run the hose around or under the vehicle, rather than through it.

However, firefighters say they won't run a hose under or around a vehicle for fear of bursting it.

"The only other option was to go through the car," said Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Assistant Chief Chuck Bezanson. "Going over the car would have totally destroyed the car. Just the weight of the hose would have crushed everything.  A couple of broken windows is a small price to pay for the safety of firefighters inside of a building."

Retired New Brunswick firefighter Mark Wilson says firefighters sometimes need every inch of available room to connect hoses to a hydrant.

"You need space," Wilson said. "There's a certain dimension around a fire hydrant you do not park, and that's not only for vehicle safety but for firefighter safety hooking up."

Neighbour Joan Kelly happened to be around when the driver -- a young woman -- returned.

"She was upset," Kelly said. "It's understandable being upset. Coming and seeing a big fire hose going through both windows."

Some people have also pointed out that there is a parking sign next to the hydrant. However, according to the Halifax government website, parking within five metres of a fire hydrant is a parking violation and can result in a vehicle being ticketed and/or towed.

"That sign is really deceiving," said window cleaner Sam Totino. "So is it a trap from the city?"

It turns out the sign pre-dates the hydrant by a number of years -- an unfortunate set of circumstances that only came to light Monday, but it won't be that way for long.

"This particular sign looks like it needs repair," said Halifax Regional Municipality spokesman Brendan Elliott. "So, we'll be going to repair it, and when we do, we will move it so it's not as confusing as it might have been previously."

Auto glass specialists tell CTV News the replacement costs for two rear windows will probably run between $700 and $800.

The driver of the car also left the scene with a ticket from Halifax Regional Police for parking within five metres of a fire hydrant -- which is another $25 in addition to the cost of repairing the windows.

In this case, the frustration displayed by Halifax firefighters has become a teachable moment for all motorists.

"Obviously they were trying to prove more of a point than anything and obviously the driver is probably not too happy, but I doubt it's a mistake that (they'll) make twice," said Bill Ireland, chief of the Kennebecasis Valley Fire Department.

As for the fire, it was extinguished in less than two hours.

A nearby nursing home was evacuated as a precaution and two firefighters were treated on scene for heat-related illnesses.

Green Street was closed to traffic for several hours while emergency crews cleared the scene. It has since reopened.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Bruce Frisko and Mike Cameron.