A crane operator working at a downtown Kingston construction site had to be rescued after an explosion set off a massive fire in the city's core.

The fire started just after 2 p.m Tuesday., at the corner of Princess and Victoria Street, south of Highway 401.

Flames shot several metres in the air, and debris was seen floating off the building.

Andrew Yaworski, who lives a few blocks from the scene, told CTV News Channel that a four-story student residence building under construction was destroyed in the fire.

“It’s completely gone,” he said.

Kingston Police tweeted a warning to local residents to stay “several blocks away” from the scene.

“Please do not endanger yourself or emergency crews on scene for Princess/Victoria St. fire,” the force tweeted.

Dozens of firefighters from neighbouring municipalities are responding to help the Kingston Fire Department.

The structure at the centre of today’s fire in Kingston had been the subject of a complaint related to fire safety, according to City of Kingston documents. Read the document here (Source: CityofKingston.ca).

As of Wednesday morning, a 24 block radius evacuation order remained in effect.  Firefighters were continuing to battle hot spots at the scene of the fire.

More to come...