The fire started on the sixth floor of the building on Walton Avenue in the Mount Hope section just after 6:30 a.m.
Many residents were still sleeping as smoke started to fill the hallways of the building.
"Everybody started banging on my door to get out and grab my pets," said fire victim Raquel Ruiz. "I grabbed my dog, I couldn't even grab my cat, she wouldn't leave."
Ruiz was on a lower floor, but on the sixth floor, cell phone video showed flames shooting from windows. Those inside could barely see out.
"A lot of smoke, the people in front of I couldn't see them right away, like I was touching people because a lot of smoke," said fire victim Jose Comora.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro says it's amazing everyone living inside made it out without injuries.
While the fire was mostly contained to the top floors, it spread quickly and required more than 200 firefighters to bring it under control.
"They found a heavy fire condition in the area between the top floor and the roof, which we know as the cockloft," said Nigro, "That's an area in this type of building where fire spreads rather quickly. It did in this case."
Many ran out of their homes with only the clothes on their backs and their pets. The smoke was so intense there wasn't time to grab anything else.
For now, those who are homeless are relying on the Red Cross, trying ti figure out what is next.
"The only thing I have is what I have right now. They say it destroyed everything," said Comora.
Three firefighters suffered minor injuries.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.