NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An early morning fire forced people in the East Village into the streets and left 14 people hurt.

The blaze, which grew to six alarms, burned for hours and forced two nearby schools to cancel classes, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported Wednesday.

Flames broke out shortly after 1:45 a.m. at a five-story building on First Avenue between 11th and 12th streets. The building houses a storefront on the bottom and apartments above. 

FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard called it a “very difficult, stubborn fire to fight.”

The fire grew big enough to evacuate not just the apartment building, but also other buildings on the block. Tenants described their urgent escapes, while the blaze was still small enough to allow them through the smoke and out to safety.

“I found out from my roommate. I was actually sleeping. So he knocked on my door telling me there was a fire outside,” resident Firas Ahmed said. “As soon as I could I went downstairs and then saw maybe 30 fire trucks and then I knew this was serious, so I actually had to knocks on everyone’s doors, the neighbors, to tell them there was a fire going on.”

Watch: FDNY Update On East Village Fire 

FDNY investigators traced the fire’s origin to a first-floor apartment. The back of the building suffered a collapse that firefighters could not get past and the area was allowed to burn instead, while the remainder of the structure was protected, CBS2’s Carlin reported.

Fire officials said they were concerned about the structural integrity of the building and pulled crews out around 8:45 a.m.

“We’ve been pounding the floor of that ceiling for about five hours now,” Leonard said. “We just can’t penetrate the roof and we can’t put anybody out there to cut it. Nor can we put people underneath it to pull it and that’s where it’s burning.”

Of the 14 people who were injured — none of them seriously — all but three were firefighters. They were treated for smoke inhalation, and some for heat exhaustion, officials said.

The lengthy operation meant classes were canceled for schools across the street, where one student had the double whammy of living in an apartment now torched and a school temporarily closed.

“You know, it’s not like I’m missing much,” Jarvis McGrath said. “It’s more just that I want to be back with all my stuff and know where everything is and know that everything is fine.”

While the students and staff Of East Side Community High School On East 12th Street and P.S. 19 around the corner were alerted they should not come to the area, City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera informed them that other nearby schools would welcome them.

The operation continued for hours and impacted multiple streets and avenues. In total, investigators say eight apartments were completely destroyed in the blaze.