The fire started around 2 a.m. at a fourplex on the 200 block of Penn Street near Marengo Avenue. A mother and her children sat on the cold sidewalk and watched. They were three of the 19 people displaced by the early-morning blaze.
Flames consumed the rear stairwell on the second floor. Tenants took drastic measures.
"Two of the adults jumped from the second floor, escaping, and they threw the kids down and someone caught them," said neighbor Charles Lance.
The kids are two sisters, ages 2 and 4. Neighbors caught them. Their parents were hurt making the 20-foot jump to safety, but no one suffered life threatening injuries.
Diana Valenzuela owns the property. In Spanish, she described how scared she was when the fire ignited. She was scared not just for her home, but for all her family members who lived in three of the four units. Six members of a second family rented the apartment where the fire originated. Its gutted, soaked contents were piled in the driveway as tenants salvaged what they could.
The American Red Cross is giving the displaced tenants a place to stay, as well as food and clothing if needed for the next few days.
Valenzuela said she can replace all the material things they've lost, but they can't replace life, and she is glad her family is OK.
Tenants said there were at least 25 people living in the fourplex.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. It is unclear if the building will be condemned.