A combination of city firefighters and concerned citizens managed to rescue valuable Canadian artwork from a blaze that ignited in the third storey of a building housing a Montreal art gallery.

The five-alarm fire occurred Sunday night at the Jean-Pierre Valentin Gallery on Sherbrooke Street West, located on the edge of Concordia University's Sir George Williams campus.

CTV Montreal's Stephane Giroux reported that artwork from "some of Canada's most celebrated painters" were inside the gallery at the time of the blaze.

The gallery website indicates that works by Jean-Paul Riopelle and Paul-Emile Borduas were among those in its possession.

Riopelle was a renowned abstract artist and sculptor who was born in Montreal and later worked in Paris. He died in 2002.

Borduas was a famed French-Canadian abstract artist whose name lives on in the annual Paul-Emile Borduas Prize -- the top visual arts honour that is awarded by the province of Quebec. He died in 1960.

The gallery was located on the first floor and the fire began in a separate part of the building two floors above.

Firefighters got the blaze under control quickly and they were assisted by neighbours and the owner of the gallery to get the paintings out of harm's way.

Local business owner Johanne Vachon was one of the people who helped carry the paintings out to the street.

"I'm not an art connoisseur, but I assume that we carried things that were very, very valuable," Vachon told CTV Montreal.

Giroux said firefighters say the blaze was not suspicious and may have been caused by an electrical issue on the third floor.

The fire caused at least $1 million in damage to the building.

The Jean-Pierre Valentin Gallery was renamed in 1992. Before that, it was known as the Gallery L'Art Francais.

With a report from CTV Montreal's Stephane Giroux