VANCOUVER -- One person was taken to hospital in critical condition and eight others have had to leave their homes, after a flames gutted a fourplex in Surrey at around 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

Marcos Neveu was fast asleep when he heard a commotion outside of his home on the 10800 block of 133A Street.

His family was able to escape as flames continued to rip through the house. But when they got outside, Neveu said they noticed his friend, Ethan, was unaccounted for.

Neveu tried to go back into the home to find Ethan, but: "Literally couldn't breathe, couldn't see. If we went any farther, I might not be able to find my way out.”

Neveu said he started throwing things at the window of the room where his friend was sleeping.

“I grabbed a big piece of wood and I hit him and woke him up," Neveu said.

Battalion Chief Reo Jerome said there are risks to performing second-floor rescues, but crews assessed the situation and determined it was safe enough to go inside.

Firefighters had to make "an aggressive attack into the building" to rescue the young man, officials said. Firefighters performed first aid on the injured man, who was then transferred to BC Ambulance and sent to hospital with critical injuries, according to BC Emergency Health Services.

"He would've died if he stayed in there -- they saved him definitely," Neveu said.

A total of 20 firefighters, with six fire-fighting vehicles, worked on the rescue and extinguishing the fire, fire officials said. Surrey's Emergency Social Services staff are now assisting all the residents who had to leave the building.

Gail Blackburn, Neveu's aunt, said the family does not have insurance.

"I feel sick to my stomach – I'm in shock," she said. "It's three days until Christmas."

She said despite the uncertainty, she feels grateful everyone escaped the fire alive.

Battalion Chief Reo said the fire started on the first floor, but how it started is still under investigation.