A fire that damaged a St. Anthony apartment building and forced residents to be evacuated early Friday was likely a case of arson.

At midday Friday, officials from the city’s police department, the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Hennepin County crime lab were processing the scene at the Equinox Apartments. They called the fire suspicious.

“Evidence points to this being an intentional fire,” said St. Anthony Fire Chief Mark Sitarz.

Alarms in the building were sounding at 2:45 a.m. when crews from St. Anthony and several neighboring departments were dispatched to the complex on the 2800 block of Silver Lane near a Cub Foods on Silver Lake Road. Flames were shooting out of a third-floor unit when they arrived.

Firefighters went door to door to wake up and escort residents out of the building. Among them were a woman and a small child who lived in the unit where the fire was contained. Another man who lived in an adjacent unit was rescued from a balcony and climbed down a ladder, Sitarz said.

No one was injured, but several residents and first responders were evaluated at the scene by HCMC paramedics for smoke- and heat-related concerns, he said.

Some residents, with no time to even put on shoes, were rushed out of the building and lingered in the parking lot as crews worked to put out the fire. Others sought shelter on a Metro Transit bus that was brought to the scene. The Red Cross also was called to provide assistance, Sitarz said.

Seven apartments in the 30-unit complex sustained water and smoke damage, he said.

The fire was believed to have started in a hallway and spread to the unit directly damaged by the fire, Sitarz said.

Authorities are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the person or people responsible. Tips can be called in to the Minnesota Arson Hotline at 1-800-723-2020, CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or the St. Anthony Police Department at 612-782-3350.