Emergency crews were called to the four-story apartment building, located at 717 East 82nd Street near Evans, at 5:30 a.m. Firefighters arrived to find the residents scrambling to get out. At least one woman jumped from a window.
"I thought I was going to die. I thought I was not going to get out," said Antonique Fites.
With fire and smoke filling hallways and stairwells, people scrambled to get out of their apartment, some with small children, roused out of bed by their smoke alarms or neighbors.
"I grabbed my baby, went to the back door. I was banging on my neighbor's door, telling them to get up because there was a fire in the building," said Henrietta Ofili.
"There was smoke and flames in a back door, ran to the front door, the same as well. The only option I had was to jump out the window," said Quincella Cooks.
Fire officials say they believe the fire may have started in a stairway.
"Once our members arrived on the scene, they had heavy fire, had people hanging out the windows, and one person had already jumped," said Chief Michael Fox, Chicago fire Dept.
"So I had to jump out the window. It was another lady that was on the third floor and she was like, 'Somebody help me!' She jumped out the third floor window and broke her arm," said Megan Irwin.
Two others were hanging from a light pole. Firefighters were able to help them down.
Four people were transported to local hospitals, one in critical condition. Dozens of others were displaced due to fire damage; Fire officials say several floors of the building were gutted.
The Red Cross is helping residents find shelter. Charlotte Jones was able to grab a few essentials.
"I do see water damage, a little bit of smoke on the walls but it didn't damage none of my stuff. Thank God for that," Charlotte Jones said.
Several neighbors say they have been complaining about a resident using an extension cord in the upstairs hallway and Jones said a suspicious woman knocked on her door just 15 minutes before the fire broke out.
The Chicago Fire Department has not released a cause; the fire was struck in just one hour.