Dozens of people gathered along a smoke-filled Central Avenue Sunday evening, watching fire crews battle a blaze that spread to at least three buildings on a block that city leaders call “the heart of northeast Minneapolis.”

The four-alarm fire was reported shortly before 5 p.m. on Central Avenue NE., home to a taco shop with apartments on the second floor.

The fire then spread to the neighboring buildings, 2408 and 2404 Central Avenue, said Fire Chief John Fruetel. By late Sunday evening, all three buildings were engulfed and crews were still working to get the blaze under control.

Everyone in the buildings were evacuated and the Red Cross was called to help the displaced residents.

City Council Member Kevin Reich stood among those congregating on the block, some who were picking up food orders from the restaurants nearby.

Central Avenue and its small businesses help define the neighborhood, Reich said.

“This is the heart of northeast Minneapolis,” he said, expressing his concern for the residents and business owners affected. “It’s a sad day for northeast.”

Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted about the fire, calling it “gut-wrenching news ... on top of an already tough week.” He thanked the Minneapolis Fire Department, saying “their work to keep people safe during this pandemic has been, and will continue to be, indispensable.”

Fruetel said he didn’t believe any of the first-floor businesses were open at the time of the fire. He said crews would continue working Sunday night to save as much of the structures as possible.