A Saturday morning fire ravaged a north Minneapolis neighborhood grocery store and left tenants of three upstairs apartments homeless.

Crews responded a little after 7 a.m. to reports of a fire at the E & L Food Market, which operates on the first floor of a 109-year-old, two-story building on the corner of Lowry and Emerson Avenues N., authorities said. The blaze started in the basement and quickly spread through the building, according to Assistant Fire Chief Cherie Penn.

Resident Alexander Makhanov, 31, said he woke up Saturday morning to the smell of smoke. For a second, he thought his roommate had just burned something in the kitchen, but he said he quickly realized that the thick smoke was more serious. "I couldn't breathe," Makhanov said.

He woke up his roommate and banged on his neighbor's door. They were all able to get out of the building before the fire spread, he said.

When firefighters arrived, they found heavy smoke coming from the building. They went inside to fight the fire but had to leave when the structure became unstable. About an hour later, the west side of the building collapsed and the fire began to burn through the roof.

One firefighter was taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale with an ankle injury. All of the residents were able to escape the fire uninjured. The Red Cross was called to assist three adults and one child.

"The place is gone. Everything I own is gone," Makhanov lamented on Saturday afternoon as he shared cigarettes and shots of vodka with his roommate at a friend's nearby apartment.

Adil Albosaad, the building owner, said he has insurance.

"I'm glad my tenants are OK," he said as he stood on the street corner and watched the fire crews.

Fire officials said what's left of the structure will need to be demolished, including the Chicago Grill, a restaurant next door.

City records indicate the building was built in 1903. According to those records, the building had a fire code inspection last year. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495; Twitter: @stribnorfleet