Eight people have been sent to hospital and many other residents are being treated for smoke inhalation early Wednesday morning.

Emergency crews received multiple 911 calls around 5 a.m. for  fire inside a high-rise apartment at 251 Donald Street, just east of downtown Ottawa.

Joe Latendresse says, “I woke up there was a smell like you burn your pot that weird smell.”

It was quickly declared a 3-alarm fire as crews witnessed fire and smoke coming from the building and firefighters rushed to rescue occupants stranded on their balconies by using ladders.

Francis Yel says “I was waiting on the balcony outside because inside it was full of smoke.

I was waiting on the balcony outside because instead it was full of smoke. After the police came in and grabbed us and they took us out.”

Susan Brunet describes how her neighbor was calling for help, “There was a lady yelling for help. And I told her to wait on her balcony and fire is on the way.”

 Firefighters were able to control the blaze just after 6 a.m.

Ottawa Paramedics treated about 25 patients for smoke inhalation on scene. Eight people were taken to hospital. One woman in her 60s had a pre-existing lung condition was made worse by the smoke and paramedics had to help her take medications.  She is  in serious but stable condition.  The other 7 were taken to various hospitals with minor smoke inhalation. 

Police Chief Bordeleau also tweeted out that one of those people was a police officer who was helping people get out of the building.  “He was one of our brave Ottawa Police officers inside 251 Donald (St.) helping evacuate people during the fire this morning,”

Police say the officer has been released from hospital early afternoon.

There is still no word on cause. A Fire Marshal has been called in because of the extent of damage.

Residents are getting the assistance of OC Transpo, The Canadian Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Red Cross has set up a recreation centre for residents at the Richelieu-Vanier Community Centre.