It took a heroic effort by firefighters to ensure no one was seriously harmed after a fast-spreading blaze broke out at a Langley apartment building Wednesday.

The flames started around 8 a.m. at a complex on 201A Street, sending dark clouds of smoke billowing into the sky. The smoke also filled some of the building’s hallways, leaving resident Tim Burgess trapped on the second floor.

“When I looked out the door I couldn’t see the door next to me,” Burgess said. “It was that thick in the hall.”

Neighbours tried to help Burgess down from his balcony, but it was firefighters who finally managed to bring him to safety.

And it wasn’t just people they rescued – crews saved an entire family of felines after their fleeing owners were forced to leave them behind.

Anita Kersbergen said she was sleeping through the fire until her 11-year-old son, John Jarvis, heard a woman screaming, realized they were in danger and woke her up.

“I heard breaking glass so I automatically went and opened the door and saw flames and smoke,” Kersbergen said.

“I started panicking and I grabbed him because so much smoke was coming into our place that we couldn’t breathe and I had to get out.”

That meant leaving behind four tiny, two-day-old kittens and their mom.

“We had to wait until the fire department could save them. I thought we were going to lose them,” a tearful Kersbergen said.

Their cat and kittens were rescued, but the blaze still left their family and others homeless. Firefighters said they’ll be working to get residents back home as quickly as possible.

Some parts of the building were damaged beyond recognition, however.

The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Michele Brunoro