A day after a fire forced an evacuation of several downtown Kitchener buildings, firefighters went back inside the apartment where it started to survey the damage.

Everything inside the unit at 37 King Street West is now a blackened mess.

“It would have looked a lot worse before the ceiling was taken down, before the walls were ripped down,” says Kitchener Fire Platoon Chief Doug Voisin.

Robert Kowalk lived in the unit. He left with his dog to pick up food for breakfast and when he returned he saw the smoke and the flames.

“I lost everything,” he says.

Because a main door was left open, the flames quickly spread.

Apartments and neighbouring businesses were evacuated.

Two people who were rescued from the fire escape were taken to Grand River Hospital where they were treated for smoke inhalation.

The Red Cross was called in to help sixteen people who were displaced by the fire. “We provided direct assistance to six of them,” says Christopher Allsop, the co-ordinator of disaster management. ”That was in the form of accommodation, clothes, food and transportation.”

Six of them were expected to return back to 37 King West Saturday.

Downtown businesses are also doing their part to help the victims.

The Berlin, the restaurant next door, says it will donate $5 from every entrée purchased on Saturday and Sunday brunch to the victims. Across the street, TheMuseum will be collecting and matching donations up to $500.

The businesses on the lower floor did not have any significant damage.

Voisin says the damage is devastating but serves as a good reminder how fast a fire can spread and why it’s important to keep doors closed.

With reporting by Abigail Bimman