"When the initial units got on scene there were approximately 20 people trapped on balconies," said San Jose Fire Captain Mitch Matlow. "They were using sheets and ropes to try to get down. They were removed from those balconies by fire personnel," said San Jose Fire Captain Mitch Matlow.
The five-alarm fire broke out just before 6 a.m. at the Summerwind Apartments on Summerside Dr. near McLaughlin Ave. All 36 units inside the building that caught fire are now uninhabitable.
"I lost my clothes... everything," said Esteban Garcia, one of the 120 residents displaced by the fire. "Right now, I have nothing."
Members of the San Jose Fire Department arrived on scene just five minutes after getting the call.
"It's always a good idea to close your bedroom door at night, because in the case of a fire like this, it buys you some extra time to escape," said San Jose Fire Captain Daniel Vega.
Many people say the quick response played a key role in preventing the fire from spreading to nearby buildings.
"The fire was growing, so it was definitely nerve-wracking to see it growing and knowing there were maybe people still in there," said witness Willy Franco.
Volunteers with the American Red Cross Silicon Valley chapter spent all day interviewing residents who had been displaced because of the fire.
"We're meeting with each of those residents, determining what their needs are, and how we can help them in the road to recovery during this very traumatic time of uncertainty," said Cynthia Cross, American Red Cross Regional Chief Communications and Marketing Officer for the Northern California Coastal Region.
Tuesday evening, officials announced that all impacted residents would be staying with friends and/or family members for the evening, or they'd be allowed to stay in a vacant unit on the Summerwind property.
City officials are also providing meals for the displaced families. The city is also working with local schools to provide transportation for affected students. Faith-based counseling and support is also being offered to assist in the recovery.
Investigators believe the fire started in a second floor unit before spreading to other units. It's unclear what exactly sparked the initial flames.
Four people were taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. 11 others were medically evaluated at the scene.
"I heard some screaming about 'there's a fire.' I was asleep," said Willy Franco, witness.
Franco said flames were shooting from the third floor.
Neighbor Willy Franco took this picture of 4-alarm fire at #SanJose apartment. He woke up when he heard people screaming for help. He said people were waiting on balconies to be rescued. pic.twitter.com/R8XfVsJTBH— Elissa Harrington (@ElissaABC7) April 17, 2018
"The fire was growing, so it was definitely nerve-wracking to see it growing and knowing there were maybe people still in there," said Franco.
Napoleon Ilano and his family were the last ones to be rescued. A fire alarm woke them up.
"My daughter knocked on the door and said 'there's a fire!' When she opened the door, the smoke came in," said Ilano.
They waited on the balcony for help. He said his wife was so scared she even thought about jumping.
"My family is really, really panicked. They are really panicked. Because I think we were the last ones who were rescued," said Ilano.
BREAKING: Red Cross confirms that an estimated 100 people have been displaced in an early morning apartment fire in San Jose. @SJFD rescued 20 people.— ABC7 News (@abc7newsbayarea) April 17, 2018