"I heard everybody yell, 'Fire, fire, get out!'"

Paul Madsen said he was just trying to get to sleep when one of his neighbors banged on his door.

Herzenberg: What'd you see once you got out?

Madsen: Just smoke. Never saw any flames, just smoke.

The flames started in the back of the building, in a first-floor apartment of a five-story building located at 2381 Hoffman Street in Belmont. The FDNY said flames broke out around 1:30 a.m. Monday.

"We had a very quick response, but we were met with very heavy fire on the first floor. Seems the apartment door, the people that left the apartment had the door open, so fire got out in the hallway, met our members right at the front door," FDNY Assistant Chief Roger Sakowich said to members of the news media.

Once in the hallway, the flames raced up to the second floor, killing two people and critically injuring two others in the apartment directly above the unit where the fire began.

Leaving a door open is the same mistake that contributed to the severity of a fire in the Bronx on Dec. 29 that resulted in the death of more than 11 people.

But in Monday's fire, many residents were able to evacuate using the fire escape.

"Nobody was yelling; everybody was freezing," Madsen recalled.

But some were trapped on the second floor. Firefighters had to put down the flames before getting to them.

"The stairway was involved in the fire, so the members had to push the fire back so they can get the stairs. Also, we had members come off the rear off the fire escape, they actually got the people who were trapped, first, but they then had to get them down the stairs," Sakowich said.

Three city firefighters suffered minor injuries, and about half of the ten civilians hurt have serious injuries — one of them a seven-year-old girl.

The fire was under control by 3:30 a.m.

The Red Cross said it is providing temporary housing for the people living in eight apartments damaged or destroyed by the blaze.