A car fire under a block of units in Sydney's northwest has forced the evacuation of 40 people, with several elderly people taken to hospital after breathing in toxic smoke.
Firefighters were called to the blaze on Old Northern Road, Castle Hill, about 4am today, finding one car on fire in the underground car park.
The fire was brought under control, but flames damaged one unit directly above the car, Fire and Rescue NSW spokesman Inspector Chris Sedgwick said.Advertisement: Story continues below
Residents, mostly families and elderly people, were evacuated and about 12 were taken to hospital with smoke inhalation, Inspector Sedgwick said.
"We've gotten them out of their beds, they've only got light dressing gowns on and they've had to walk through the smoke."
Inspector Sedgwick said underground fires could be particularly nasty.
"The trouble is basement fires turn it into an oven because you've got concrete floors and walls ... which retain all the heat and 90 per cent of the smoke," Inspector Sedgwick said.
"It's pitch black and it's like an oven - it's red hot in there."
Car fires also give off a lot of toxic gases because of all the rubber and metal, he said.
Old Northern Road was closed for some of the morning, but southbound lanes were reopened before 6am.
The cause of the fire is not yet known, but it is being treated as suspicious, police said.
Barry O'Farrell budget cuts are putting pressure on fire station closures via FRNSW. FBEU will report further later next week.