Police and fire officials said they suspected the fire had been set deliberately.
Residents awakened by people banging on their doors at 4:30 a.m., had to run for their lives. Nine firefighters were injured getting the fire under control.
"It's just madness inside," Fire Lt. John Eccleston told the New York Daily News. "It was the worst private dwelling fire I've seen in 25 years. We could see the glow from a half mile away."
Authorities identified the victims as Seandale Gutter, 27, and his brother Sha-Ron Gutter, 23.
Seandale had a history of legal troubles and was released from state prison on Dec. 5. He had served 18 months on a weapons charge, according to state records.
Sha-Ron had been a football standout at Curtis High School. The New York Daily News gave him its All Star High School Football Player of the Year Award in 2002.
Among the first people to spot the blaze were two city sanitation workers, Kenneth Swain, 51, and Stephan Manganaro, 44, who dashed from their truck and banged on the doors of the burning buildings to alert sleeping residents.
A police investigation into the cause of the fire was under way.