A huge fire lit up the night sky in Vancouver's West End Saturday evening and engulfed a multi-unit heritage home.

Firefighters had to rescue two people from inside the house and Battalion Chief Steven Duncan said the three-alarm blaze was incredibly complicated to fight.

"The fire progressed, moving up from the basement through the walls," he said. "One person was rescued from the basement and for another, a ladder had to be put up."

Three people were also unaccounted for at one point, but have since been located.

About 50 firefighers attended the scene and it took hours to put out. The fight was made harder by power lines near the building and low water pressure.

Residents nearby said the heritage building contained low-income housing. Three surrounding buildings were also evacuated, and the heritage home was all but destroyed.

"I saw a lot of flames and smoke and I was concerned," said witness Blair Coleman. She brought over blankets and a pet carrier for those forced out of their homes.

People returned to the scene Sunday morning to take in the damage, including Patrick Gunn who is on the board of Heritage Vancouver.

"We're just glad that no one was harmed and everyone got out," he said. "But in terms of loss for Vancouver's architectural merit, it's sad."

According to Heritage Vancouver's database, the home was built in 1904 by Parr & Fee. The same architects designed a neighbouring house that has been restored. The architects' trademark, Gunn said, was corner turrets.

"It's basically a Queen Anne style," he said. "Very few are left."

It was a stately home from its inception, costing $3,000 to build when the average home cost $1,200, Gunn said. One of the first occupants was jeweler George Trorey who designed Vancouver's Birks clock at Hastings Street and Granville Street.