The flames broke out around 10 p.m. on Dekalb Avenue between Knickerbocker and Wilson in Bushwick and burned across the roofs of five buildings. The three-story residential buildings, each housing multiple families, many in rent-regulated apartments, were heavily damaged.
"My house got destroyed," victim Marilyn Moricilio said. "Everything in my house is destroyed. I wasn't expecting this when I came home."
The loss was devastating for Moricilio and dozens of other families.
"I was in the shower when my brother started saying there was smoke," resident Billy Flores said. "So I ran out of the shower, got dressed and ran out of the building."
Drone video obtained by Eyewitness News captured the carnage as the fire consumed the buildings. It is believed to have started inside a building that also housed a church.
"First our neighbor from downstairs told us there was a fire going on," victim Delinger Acosta said. "We didn't hear nothing. We didn't. Smell nothing, and our fire alarm didn't go off. So once our neighbor told us, I just grabbed my daughter and my phone and I left."
Fire officials say the flames spread quickly not only because of the wind, but because of the way the buildings were built.
"I hate to say it's a typical fire for this area, but certainly over the years there's been many fires like this," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. "And unfortunately, they do spread quickly and cause quite a bit of homelessness."
More than 200 firefighters battled the flames into what ended up being a devastating night for residents.
"It was horrible," Acosta said. "There was smoke and water from the firefighters, glass all over the place."
When Rosaira Quinones looks up at her corner apartment, there is only a burned-out shell of charred wood and blue sky. While she, her 1-year-old baby boy and her husband were able to escape to safety, their worries now turn to finding affordable housing.
"There is a lack of affordable housing and apartments in the community," she said. "I am a little bit worried."
As arson and explosion detectives begin their task of finding the cause, city buildings inspectors are working to determine which buildings must be torn down and which can be saved. The apartments lost will be deeply felt.
"We need to work to get them permanent housing in the city of New York for low and moderate income working people," Public Advocate Letitia James said.
James and the Red Cross were already meeting with displaced residents, getting them immediate shelter, food and clothing, and helping them with longer-term needs.
Quinones was paying $1,350 for the two-bedroom apartment she lost.
"I really want to have a place to go," she said. "And I have a 1-year-old baby. I just need a roof."
Here's a look at the aftermath of the fire:
"We lost everything," Flores said. "We're going to a shelter or a hotel for now."
The rear of one of the buildings collapsed. A front facade also gave way, raining debris onto the street.
Video posted on social media shows the intense flames firefighters were battling:
"All of my stuff is still upstairs, and I have to try to see if I can get half of my things, which is impossible because everything is completely garbage," Moricilio said. "I came home to nothing today. And I feel this is not right."
Fortunately, none of the injuries are life threatening.