The blaze at Marymead Close, Ryde, was reported shortly after 1pm according to Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service.
The fire was in the roof space of the block of 14 flats, off Simeon Street and five appliances, the aerial platform and a command unit from Yarmouth were sent to the scene according to the fire and rescue service.
At around 2pm part of the roof collapsed.
Firefighters were spraying water on to the fire from above using the aerial ladder, as well as tackling the blaze from the ground.
Everyone was evacuated from the building, as were residents from other properties in the street as a precaution.
Resident Tony Philipson, who called 999, said: "It was quite dramatic. I was coming back from the Co-op and saw smoke and thought someone was having a large bonfire.
"I pulled into the car park and looked up and saw smoke pouring from the roof vents. I could hear the tiles crackling with the heat underneath them and that's when I knew the roof was going to collapse.
"It was quite amazing to see because while I was there watching I could see the roof turning black. The roof collapsed and what remained looked like the ribs of an old ship sticking out."
Another resident said: "There was smoke and it kept coming, but I didn't think anything of it and closed the windows.
"The next thing I knew my neighbour is banging on the door telling us to get out.
"I'm just feeling anxious because I don't know whether the fire has spread."
Fire and rescue service incident commander Justin Harden said: "As the fire crew arrived the flames broke through the roof and at this moment in time we are dealing with a significant fire within the flats, although it is now under control.
"All persons have been for. We have not established the cause yet."
Firefighters were at the scene until 8.15pm damping down the building. They returned to the property twice during the night to inspect it and make sure it was safe.
*Police said this afternoon (Friday): "Officers are making enquiries in the community after assisting other emergency services and partner agencies with public safety precautions at the scene.
"The cause of the fire remains unknown at this early stage of the investigation, which will examine whether any criminal offences have taken place.
"Detectives from Isle of Wight CID are keeping an open mind about the circumstances."
Anyone with information is asked to contact police by phoning 101. Mini-Com users can call 01962 875000. Information can be given anonymously by phoning the independent Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.
|A close up of the damage to the roof. Picture by Peter Boam. |
|The extensive damage to the roof can be seen in this picture by Dave Brown. |
|Firefighters tackling the fire at Marymead. Picture by Peter Boam. |
|Smoke seen coming from the flats. Picture by Russell Varley. |