Residents say it started with smoke, bellowing from an upstairs heating vent in the sleeping quarters of a men's transitional housing facility in Oakland.
The flames had already burst through the roof before firefighters arrived.
The fire was son the second floor, so crews were up there when it was noted that the fire was moving rapidly through the attic space and the decision was made to withdraw," Oakland Fire Department spokesperson Lt. David Brue said.
The firefighters who were on the roof quickly evacuated to avoid injury. The fire went to two alarms and took about an hour to get under control.
The building is a warehouse that was converted to a housing facility operated by the Bay Area Word of Faith fellowship.
Fourteen men lived in the facility, designed for people who have jobs, but are trying to save enough money to move into their own apartments.
"All I know is the building was on fire, I'm here just like everybody else, watching, checking out the scene," resident Ordreaus said.
The Red Cross arrived with help for those displaced by the fire, at least for the next few days.
The Red Cross is helping them with food, clothing and shelter; we'll provide them a little money for clothing and we'll be putting them in hotels over the weekend until Monday," Red Cross spokesperson Alan Tobey said.
Eric Gipson lives in the facility. He had everything he owned inside.
"I'm not really worried about my clothes much, because that's all replaceable, my music is pretty much replaceable; it's pictures of my children when they were little that are gone, all my bibles, all my books, all gone," resident Eric Gipson said.
No one was injured in the fire; the exact cause is still under investigation.