When a military chopper arrived at the scene of a massive fire in Kingston, Ont., to rescue a worker trapped on a construction crane, the man was “petrified,” the helicopter pilot said.

In an interview with CTV’s Kevin Newman Live, Cpt. David Agnew, the aircraft commander at CFB Trenton, said describing the crane operator as “frightened” would be “an understatement of the year.”

“At first he was petrified, he didn’t want to let go of the crane,” Agnew said hours after the dramatic rescue.

The worker became trapped on the crane when a huge blaze broke out below him at a downtown building under construction.

As the fire raged, he made his way to the far edge of the crane, where the chopper eventually picked him up.

Agnew said there was “smoke everywhere” when the search-and-rescue helicopter reached the area.

“We weren’t sure how long until the crane was going to collapse from the flames below.”

A sergeant who Agnew said was “the hero of the day” lowered himself to the edge of the crane and made sure the worker was securely tied to him.

As both men were hoisted into the helicopter, “it was quite a sigh of relief for all of us,” Agnew said.

The crane operator was taken to a waiting ambulance and is believed to have sustained minor injuries.

The fire broke out mid-afternoon Tuesday at a downtown student residence building under construction.

Andrew Yaworski, who lives a few blocks from the scene, told CTV News Channel that the building was destroyed.

“It’s completely gone,” he said.

Yaworski said there were reports of an explosion before the fire broke out.

Kingston Mayor Mark Gerretsen said the fire spread quickly because the building was made of wood.

Gerretsen told News Channel Tuesday evening that the fire had spread to nearby buildings.

An evacuation zone has been established and utilities are being shut off to homes and businesses in the area until it’s safe for residents to return, he said. 

Late Tuesday, Kingston Police Const. Steve Koopman said the fire was under control, but firefighters were still working on putting out hotspots.

He also said the crane was structurally unstable and could collapse.

The Canadian Red Cross was called in to assist evacuees. An emergency shelter has been set up where people can stay warm, get some food and clothes.

A nearby school and a seniors’ residence have been evacuated due to their proximity to the fire.