WINNIPEG -- Two people were taken to hospital following an apartment fire on Sargent Avenue Monday morning.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service was called to a four-storey apartment building in the 700 block of the street at 5:50 a.m., according to a news release. When firefighters arrived, they encountered heavy smoke and flames, prompting them to call for additional resources.

While firefighters attacked the flames from inside, they also searched the building, rescuing several occupants. Ladder crews were used to rescue an individual from a third-floor window.

Crews were forced to exit the building at one point due to deteriorating conditions, and transition to fighting the flames from outside the building. Crews were able to enter again once conditions improved, and the fire was declared under control at 6:47 a.m.

Of the two people taken to hospital, one was transported in critical condition, while the other was in stable condition. Seven people were assessed on scene, but no other person was taken to the hospital.

Firefighters say several cats were rescued from the building, with at least one requiring oxygen. The cat that required oxygen was later reunited with its owner. Winnipeg Animal Services was called to provide care for the other animals.

Transit buses were deployed to provide shelter for the evacuees. Occupants of the building will not be able to return to their suites once crews complete their work, so the city’s emergency social services were brought in to help connect people to available resources.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and no damage estimates are available at the time.