HALIFAX -- Built in 1962, the former St. Agnes Convent in New Waterford, Nova Scotia, has seen better days.

On Saturday, an early morning fire severely damaged the inside of the building, which residents say has been vacant for several years and is frequently targeted by vandals. They say they are upset because they believe the building should be demolished – which seems unlikely to happen.  

“I expected to come down here, and there would be bulldozers taking it out right now,” says resident, Rose Glachan. “I see the door is open; they’re going to have to board it up, I guess, so kids don't get in there.”

Firefighters fought the flames for nearly four hours after receiving a report on Saturday at around 12 a.m.

“When we landed on scene, the building was fully evolved – a lot of heaving smoke,” says New Waterford Fire Department Chief Lenny Barrington. “But we were able to get it knocked down pretty quickly.”

Barrington says he wasn't surprised when the call came in but says firefighters were lucky it didn't turn into a major blaze.

“I was kind of concerned for our own fellas,” says Barrington. “I was telling them to be very cautious entering that building because you didn't know what was in it or how it was set.”

The fire is being treated as suspicious. Barrington says the Fire Marshal's office will be on scene within the coming days to investigate.

For the people who live in the neighbourhood, they feel the building should've been torn down long ago.

“This is an eyesore for the neighbours and very unsafe,” says resident, Barb Fougere. “It’s a place for kids to go with their curiosity and get in trouble or cause another fire. The faster they can take it down – the better it is for the residents.”

Barrington agrees and says he is thankful nobody was hurt.

“We really expected that building should've been torn down long ago,” says Barrington. “Its a very large building. It was a building that was housed by sisters at one time.”

In the meantime, security will remain on-site as the investigation begins – with many residents hoping the building will be demolished after it is complete.