TAMPA (FOX 13) - Madeline Artigas's life was saved by her own son.
"We were all sleeping and the youngest child, he heard a 'boom, boom!" she said Monday afternoon.
It was around 5 o'clock in the morning and still dark outside at the Knollwood Apartments in east Tampa. Flames illuminated the mother's fears.
"My son says, 'Mom, I think there's something going on, I think there's a fire.' So I said, 'Quickly, everybody out!' Then when I opened the door I saw the flames," she recalled.
Artigas's family and others awoken by the popping ran out in their pajamas to alert everyone still sleeping.
"We were knocking hard so everyone would get up. I didn't get a chance to grab anything; I just wanted to wake everyone up," Artigas continued.
Their neighborly concern likely saved many lives. In the morning light, residents got a full view of what happened. The majority of the 12 units' upper levels were reduced to ashes.
Firefighters say the older structure likely didn't have any firewalls, allowing the flames to swiftly sweep through.
"It started outside one of the units, and then it went up the side of the building and into a common attic space," Tampa Fire Rescue's Jason Penny said Monday.
Most residents are left with only the clothes on their backs and a sense of hope that they'll be able to find the irreplaceable.
"The only thing I really want to go in and look for is my father's ashes. But they're on the first floor, the bottom floor, so I know we'll be able to get those," resident Annette Haynes said.
Firefighters believe an electrical malfunction in one of the units' outside patios started the fire. The Red Cross is assisting many families in finding temporary shelter.