About 50 people were forced to flee their homes after an early morning fire damaged an apartment building in Moncton.

Firefighters responded to the blaze at the 23-unit building on Oakland Avenue around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“We had heavy smoke coming from the roof and from one window,” said Moncton Fire Department Platoon Chief Brian Gaudet.

Resident Linda Henwood awoke to what she thought was the sound of rushing water, but when she stepped into the hallway, she found herself surrounded by a thick cloud of smoke.

“There was a fella who came out of his apartment because of the smoke, so he pulled the fire alarm,” she said. “We just banged at doors to get everyone out.”

Everyone managed to get out safely, including several pets.

“There’s extensive damage to at least four apartments, heavy smoke and water damage to the other apartments,” said Gaudet.

It is unclear when residents will be able to return to the building, but it likely won’t be for several more months.

The Canadian Red Cross was on the scene to provide immediate help.

“We work with them for the first 72 hours to help them find out what their first steps are going to be, whether that’s to find a new place to stay, whether it’s friends or family, whether it’s a place to find food,” said Red Cross spokesman Marc Belliveau.

“After that they move onto the next steps, which could be referring them to another agency.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, although firefighters believe it may have started in a bathroom.

It is not considered suspicious.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Nick Moore