"Smelled some smoke. We pulled up and heard a lot of screaming, seeing little kids. And then they got the ladder off the side and went straight in," said Rodney Lumpkin, rescuer.
"Running around the house, trying to knock the windows out, we found the ladder on the side of the gate toward the alley, and we went in there, we got the ladder, put it up there and started working from there," said Shawn Smith, rescuer.
One man was trapped on the second floor. He had barely gotten his clothes on when he climbed down the ladder to safety.
"The oldest man couldn't get off the ladder, so I climbed up the ladder and got him down," said Marcus Reynolds, rescuer.
Another man who made it out decided to run back in the burning house himself -- just to make sure everyone was out.
Minutes after everyone escaped, the fire burned through the entire house. Chicago firefighters battled the blaze for more than an hour before it was under control.
The frigid temperatures made it a tough fight - a nearby fire hydrant had to be thawed out, and one firefighter slipped on a patch of ice.
The inside of the large duplex was completely burned out.
Investigators say it's a good thing there were working smoke detectors, which is what caught the attention of three cousins in the first place.
"They really got a taste of what we do as firefighters," said Bill Doody, firefighter.
Family members of those who were rescued are grateful for their effort.
"I want to thank them very much for what they done. You know, because I wouldn't have done it. You know, I'm not going into a burning building for anyone. I'm sorry. Unless it's my mom," said Leonard Barton.
Officials said the electrical fire began in the ceiling of the home's basement. They believe faulty wiring led to the blaze.