Residents in parts of New Edinburgh and Vanier are being warned to stay indoors and keep all their windows and doors closed because of toxic fumes that were released in a fire that raged for hours at a hardware store on Beechwood Avenue.

The city is advising people who live in the areas of Crichton Street to Dufferin Road, Rideau Terrace to Acacia Avenue, Marier Avenue to Dagmar Avenue and Landry Street to stay inside.

Officials are also recommending people to close any fireplace dampers, and turn off all fans or heating systems that draw in air from outside.

Ottawa's fire chief says they're concerned the fumes released by pesticides, herbicides and other items in the hardware store may be dangerous.

Emergency workers are currently trying to determine if smoke from the fire is a health risk. The advisory was issued because the city doesn't want to take any chances.

"If you were a relative of mine, I'd tell you, don't be anywhere around here breathing in those fumes," John Maxwell, a duty inspector with the Ottawa police, said Wednesday afternoon.

Toxic smoke billows for hours

The fire tore through a Home Hardware store on Beechwood Avenue, east of Ottawa's downtown core, at about 10 a.m. Wednesday. Toxic smoke has been billowing from the store for hours.

A Home Hardware employee who used an extinguisher to try to put out the initial flames said the blaze started in the basement, and spread quickly.

"By the time I came back, there was too much smoke and the fire was all out. So we just evacuated the store," said employee Steve Gravel.

Fire leaves people homeless

About 70 firefighters were still on the scene early Wednesday evening. The store is surrounded by several shops, including a nearby art gallery. Above the store is a strip of residential apartments.

About a dozen people who live in those four apartments were told to leave. They're now homeless, some with nowhere to go.

"They told us: 'Do you have any numbers that you can call?' Like yeah, she does, but she can't remember all those numbers. Those numbers are literally up there," said Karl Arycraft, whose mother lives in the building.

"(It's) devastating because everything we own is in that apartment. All we have on us is what we have right now," said Diana Snippe, who fought back tears as she watched the fire burn through the building.

Residents of a nearby seniors' home were also evacuated as a precaution.

The Salvation Army is helping evacuated residents. The agency says it will provide clothing and replacement furniture to the 11 people whose apartments were destroyed in the blaze.

The exact cause of the fire remains unknown. So far, no injuries have been reported.

Beechwood Avenue remains closed between Vanier Parkway and MacKay Street. Police are redirecting traffic in the area and are asking motorists to take alternate routes.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Stefan Keyes