The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office has been called in to investigate a four-alarm blaze that gutted a vacant building near Jarvis and Dundas streets Thursday morning.

The flames erupted around 4:30 a.m. and it took firefighters more than three hours to knock down the blaze at 301 George St. Buildings on either side also suffered some damage.

Crews were forced to go into a defensive mode, pulling all firefighters out of the structure.  The fire escalated to four-alarm status around 6:15 a.m. and crews managed to get it under control just after 8 a.m.

No one was hurt. Two cats were rescued and firefighters gave them oxygen at the scene.

Toronto Fire division commander Andrew Kostiuk said in the past three months there were fires in the building directly behind 301 George St. and in adjoining buildings.

“We’re calling the fire marshal just because we’ve had fires in this area and the extent, the volume of fire showing upon our arrival,” he said.

“We’ll be on scene for probably the whole day making sure it doesn’t restart.”

It’s too early to speculate on a cause or whether the building will have to be ripped down, an investigator from the fire marshal’s office said Thursday afternoon.

A neighbor named Harley told Breakfast Television the building gutted Thursday was vacant “but a lot of people squat there.”

He described the string of recent fires in the area as “suspicious.”

Local councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam claims there have been several infractions with one of the owners of the block of houses on the street, which she says are heritage properties, and that fires and security have been a major issue. Wong-Tam said if the owner doesn’t address the problems she’d like to see the city take over the properties for restoration.

“This is a file that’s been with the city for some time and there hasn’t been a solution yet,” she said.

A meeting with Toronto Fire representatives, bylaw officers and community representatives that was scheduled before Thursday’s fire is still taking place Friday morning.