STEWIAKE, N.S. -- About 20 people were forced from their homes early Saturday as multiple explosions rocked the site of a machine shop in downtown Stewiacke, N.S.

The RCMP said the first explosion rang out around 4:30 a.m. at BJ Electric Motor and Control Ltd. on George Street after several employees noticed a small fire.

"I think they were responding to smoke alarms going off there," said Cpl. Addie Maccallum. "They discovered the small fire and an explosion took place while they were there. No one was injured."

Multiple explosions followed as the flames spread, fuelled by combustible materials stored on site.

"It was like a war zone," said Mark Crozier, the town's deputy fire chief. "It was just explosion after explosion."

He said between 60 and 70 firefighters were called in to help fight the blaze as the explosions continued and homes in the area were evacuated as a precaution.

"We knew we were in for a long one," said Crozier. "Being an industrial building, they have a lot of big, industrial, electric motors in there, the transformers for Nova Scotia Power are stored there, acetylene torches, propane tanks -- all kinds of goodies."

No one was seriously hurt, but two firefighters were taken to hospital by ambulance with minor injuries. Crozier said one of the firefighters hurt his ankle while another was treated for dehydration.

Evacuees were allowed to return to their homes about two hours after the fire broke out.

Crozier said at least two buildings owned by the company were destroyed in the fire. A third building that houses the company's computer equipment sustained serious damage, he said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.