About 50 people were forced to evacuate an apartment building in Miramichi after the provincial fire marshal’s office deemed the building unsafe.

“I was devastated. This is our home,” said tenant Mary Robinson.

Miramichi Fire Chief Tony Lloyd says fire investigators were looking into a complaint when they found that drywall had been removed from hallway ceilings and some walls while the building undergoes a major renovation. That exposed electrical wires, which fire investigators say could spread quickly through the open ceiling cavities.

The tenants learned at 11 a.m. Wednesday that they had four hours to leave the three-storey building, with no firm indication as to when they will be able to return.

“And then they come back at 11 a.m. in the morning and they say ‘OK, you got to be out by 3 p.m.' I’m like what?” said tenant Steve MacDonald. “How do you walk away from your home in four hours?”

“They could’ve been kind enough to give us at least 24-hours-notice. I just think that was cruel,” said Robinson.

Canadian Red Cross volunteers from Miramichi and Bathurst set up cots, blankets and food at a temporary shelter at the Golden Hawk Gym, where seven tenants stayed overnight.

The organization says the other tenants made arrangements to stay with friends or family.

“We have about 25 households registered with us, and about 29 individuals,” said Elizabeth Hendrick, with the Canadian Red Cross.

The New Brunswick government will be consulted Thursday on next steps and additional support for the evacuees.

The evacuation also sparked concern over not having any existing shelters in the area.

“There doesn’t seem to be much set up for emergency services,” said Miramichi MLA Michelle Conroy. “So, I think it’s something the city and province need to look at.”

The Red Cross says the landlord hopes to complete the renovations within a few weeks and make building compliant and fire and other safety code.

“The idea is to get them in as soon as possible. I’d like to have it within a week, but that may not be realistic. Could be more like a week and a half,” said landlord, Brian Grosseth.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kate Walker