06/07/2017 12:13 PM AEST | Updated 06/07/2017 12:14 PM AEST

Suspicious Fire Sparks Evacuation Of Hundreds In Melbourne

It's now a crime scene.

Fairfax/Justin McManus
Firefighters at a electrical engineers factory in Hancock st Southbank.

A fire which forced the evacuation of hundreds of Melbourne residents early on Thursday morning is being treated as suspicious by authorities.

Southbank residents had to be evacuated after smoke was seen billowing from a disused warehouse shortly after 6.30am.

"It is believed no one was inside the premises at the time of the blaze and an arson chemist is expected to attend the later this morning," Victoria police said in a statement.

"The fire is being treated as suspicious and a crime scene guard will remain at the site."

Police are asking witnesses to come forward.

Last week a man was left fighting for his life after being set alight in an abandoned factory in the same area.

There are reports squatters were using the building involved in Thursday's fire.

It is not yet known what started the blaze.

The Herald Sun reports residents woke to the smell of smoke and were forced to flee.

"I just got the hell out there, I was freaking out," one resident told the Herald Sun.

Fairfax/Justin McManus
Fire at a electrical engineers factory in Hancock st Southbank.
Fairfax/Justin McManus
It is believed the factory was inhabitied by homeless people.
Firefighters being hosed during the factory fire. It reportedly took 25 firefighters 40 minutes to bring the fire under control.

"I put my cat in a carrier and got dressed and ran down the stairs.

"I'm so glad there was no one inside."