The fire was contained to one unit but it was so smoky some residents were afraid to try to get out on their own.
It may be a week before people are allowed back into their homes.
But on Monday night many are just grateful they survived.
"So I open the door, and I said oh the building is on fire. And I saw the lady next door to me coming out. By the time I go back inside my apartment to get a wet towel to put over my face so I could go out too, I get back to the door and there was so much smoke I couldn't even get out. So I just stayed in and put a wet towel under my door and opened up my windows," said Kenneth Conwell, building resident.
Kenneth Conwell and his roommate, Edwin Ervin, live on the building's fifth floor. They were able to wait out the fire and escape on their own. But others needed to be rescued.
"There were people who were in their apartments who were afraid to come out. And they went floor by floor, apartment by apartment, first clearing the smoke out of the hallway and then rescuing the people, bringing them down," said Derrick Jackson, deputy fire commissioners.
"You know the kids were scared. I was scared for them," said Richard Darrough. "We knocked out the screens and yelled, hey, get us out of here, you know. We couldn't breathe. The kids were scared. They came took my son down, took my daughter down. I came down. And everybody else that was in my apartment came down."
On Monday night, investigators suspect the fire started on the first floor with a burning mattress. Warming buses were brought to the area for residents.
Thirteen people were sent to the hospital but no one was seriously hurt. The Red Cross is helping 35 people who have no place to go find a place to stay on Monday night.