A fire has ravaged an apartment block that was once used as a hospital in Yorkton.

Flames and thick smoke could be seen from several areas of the city's downtown when the fire broke out Tuesday night.

Several residents fled the building with just their clothes on their backs. Mayor Bob Maloney said there are believed to have been 37 adults and an unknown number of children in the complex.

It wasn't immediately known if anyone was hurt.

"One of the local hotels was set up and the Red Cross, as always, was involved with the city helping direct people to where they can reach accommodation," said Maloney. "There really is quite a process involved when things like this occur."

The Red Cross helped at least seven people find a place to stay overnight. Local groups are accepting donations of cash, clothes and food.

Firefighters were still pouring water on the building and watching for flare-ups early Wednesday morning. Crews had to deal with wind-chilled temperatures in the -30s C.

It's not yet known if the building is a total writeoff. The investigation into the cause of the blaze won't begin until all hot spots are extinguished.

"All I can see is smoke, so it's really too early to try and guesstimate how much damage has been done to the building," Maloney said. "I did have a report that there were flames coming through the roof of the building, so to me that would indicate some pretty extensive damage."

The block was built in 1929 and housed the former Queen Victoria hospital. It was eventually converted into an apartment building with 45 suites.