The blaze damaged seven apartments and seven vehicles at the complex, located at 8020 Beverly Drive in east Rohnert Park near Sonoma State University. Four of the apartments and five vehicles were destroyed, Department of Public Safety Lt. John Marty said.
Firefighters responded two minutes after the Department of Public Safety received a report at 1:42 a.m. of a burning vehicle in a carport that was threatening two apartments above it and other apartments nearby, Marty said.
The first two officers to arrive at the scene began evacuating the building.
Neighbor Trevor Kasimoff, 23, said he was watching TV in his home behind the apartment building around 1:25 a.m. when he heard a fire alarm.
Her said he looked out a window and saw that the apartment building behind his house was on fire.
He hopped the fence between his house and the burning building and saw a woman leaning out a second-story window. The woman dropped a boy, about 6 years old, then a girl about two years younger into his arms.
"I was able to catch them both," Kasimoff said.
The woman herself then jumped from the window, he said.
"I wasn't ready for it. I put my arms out and was able to break her fall, but we both fell to the ground," he said.
The woman suffered a broken ankle, and the two children suffered minor smoke inhalation, Marty said. All three were taken to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Rosa, Marty said.
Kasimoff said the people in the next-door apartment were yelling for help and he saw a 20-foot ladder on the ground. He said he put it up to the apartment window and a man and a woman climbed down to safety.
"I was going on adrenaline in the heat of the moment," he said. "I'm just glad the worst of it was a broken ankle and smoke inhalation," said Kasimoff, an employee at Mary's Pizza Shack in Santa Rosa.
Marty said that if not for Kasimoff' heroism, the outcome could have been different.
A public safety officer also suffered a cut to his hand during the emergency evacuation, Marty said.
The fire went to two alarms as the flames spread from the carport to apartments immediately above it then to the common attic shared by several more apartments, Marty said.
The blaze was controlled in 40 minutes and was extinguished by 2:57 a.m., Marty said.
The American Red Cross set up a temporary shelter at the Callinan Sports and Fitness Center on Snyder Lane for the displaced residents, who were later taken to local motels.
Firefighters from Rancho Adobe, Rincon Valley, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Gold Ridge, Bennett Valley and Wilmar also responded to the blaze.
Damage is estimated at $1 million, and the cause of the fire is under investigation, the Department of Public Safety said.
The building that burned had wood-shake siding, and there were no fire sprinklers in it because the building code did not require one when the building was built in the late 1960s or early 1970s, Marty said.