When Stacey Pyka’s daughter opened their apartment door to investigate a commotion outside Sunday night, she faced a thick wall of black smoke.

“The smoke, you couldn’t even see the apartment across the hall,” Pyka told CTV News.

That was where a stovetop blaze had started, according to the Saskatoon Fire Department.

The fire department said a fire broke out at around 8:30 p.m. at 115 Avenue O South. Twenty-six adults and three children were evacuated and taken to the Ramada Hotel for the night where the Canadian Red Cross provided them food, clothes and anything else they needed on a priority basis.

Suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Pyka believed she wouldn’t have been able to make it out the hallway. Instead, she and her daughter walked to the back of the suite and made their way out to the balcony where they were trapped.

“I was prepared to jump off the balcony if the firemen didn’t show up in time but they came. They brought ladders, we got out.”

A few blocks away another tenant, Matthew Stockly-Kline, was grabbing dinner when his roommate phoned to tell him about the blaze. He said he hustled over to find the building hidden behind plumes of smoke.

“I got there and the smoke was incredible, I didn’t see the fire but the smoke was just everywhere,” he said. When he met up with his roommate, he noticed they were three cats short.

Stockly-Kline asked firefighters if they could head up to his top-floor suite to rescue his other cats that were likely hiding under the bed. Stockly-Kline said it took firefighters two trips to retrieve all three cats.

“They all smell pretty badly of smoke, a couple of their noses had some black around it but they’re doing good now.”

Insurance adjusters and members of the Canadian Red Cross met with all of the displaced tenants. With no immediate timeline for when they can return home or even collect personal belongings, Pyka said she hopes her suite is still intact because she has precious memories of her recently deceased father as well as some critical medication to control her seizures.

She also has her grandson’s birth records and newborn onesies she kept.