A commercial building on Commercial Drive was heavily damaged by fire early Saturday morning, causing neighbours to leave their homes, challenging fire crews and leaving many local companies affected.

Vancouver Fire Rescue Services arrived at the two-alarm fire near Pender Street just before 5 a.m. to find smoke and flames billowing out the small, barred windows.

“Access was the biggest challenge,” assistant chief of operations Joe Foster said. “Even if the bars weren’t on the windows, the structure of the building has windows that are too small to put firefighters through in a safe manner and allow them to fight the fire from the inside of the building.”

Foster said they sounded the second alarm to relieve the first wave of firefighters.

Neighbours reported hearing alarms and smelling smoke inside their homes across the street as early as 4:30 a.m., which convinced some of them to leave for the night.

The building is home to Woodland Smokehouse and Commissary, as well as a not-for-profit community boxing gym. The commissary has a deli serving customers in the front while the back kitchen is shared by many.

“We rent out space from our kitchen to a bunch of local companies - food trucks, catering companies – so we have anywhere between ten and 15 renters in here at all times,” retail manager Shay Washburn said. “This place meant a lot to everyone in the community, myself included, and everyone that had worked here. It’s a very community-oriented place.”

Initial investigations are focused around an office on the first floor of the building and investigators don’t believe it is suspicious.

Foster said by Saturday afternoon some of the businesses were already salvaging what they could, adding, “it’s not a total loss but there is extensive damage.”

With a report from CTV's Michele Brunoro.