Residents left homeless after a fire in Saint John are looking for a new place to call home as questions about the fire begin to spark.

Donald Irving is one of the 16 residents forced out of the apartment building on Mecklenburg Street early Sunday after a fire started in a vacant building next door and quickly spread.

Both buildings were destroyed in the blaze, while two nearby homes sustained smoke and water damage.

Irving says the abandoned building was a popular hangout spot and that he and other tenants called police several times asking them to do something about it.

“We would tell them quite a few times that someone is over there. They’re doing drugs and they are going to put fire on our houses,” says Irving.

“There are kids here. There are people here. They (the police) come over sometimes, peek over, and then they’re gone. It seems that they don’t care.”

Work crews started to tear the two buildings down Monday afternoon and fire crews are working with the Saint John major crime unit to determine the cause of the fire.

“Right now we’ve heard different rumours and that’s what they are right now, they are different rumours,” says Saint John Fire Department Division Chief Mike Wilson. “But we do know the building was secure, so that’s all we can say at this time.”

Members of the community are reaching out to the displaced residents as news of the fire spreads.

“The one family I touched base with yesterday is just completely stunned to say the least,” says Lois Merritt, a community outreach worker with Fresh Start, a program that helps families get back on their feet after situations like the Mecklenburg Street fire.

“The next step is to ensure every one of the families are contacted, advocating immediately for extensions, meals, finding apartments, emergency benefits, and getting them stable and set up again as quickly as possible.”

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ashley Dunbar