Everyone got out safely, but some tenants said their units had no working smoke detectors. "I heard somebody yell fire, there was fire coming through the walls man," Robert Jones said.
Jones said he narrowly escaped the fire, which raged out of control through 16 rooms of the Travel Inn at 9:30 a.m.
Jones is confined to a wheelchair. "No wheelchair accessibility, they had to pull me down the stairs," he said.
"My son ran in the room, woke me up and said: 'Mom the building is on fire,' and we grabbed what we could and got out the door," fire victim Tina Wilson said.
Wilson and her son Trenton grabbed their dog named Honey Biscuit and then warned other neighbors to get out. "There was just black smoke everywhere, so I started banging on everybody's doors," she said.
"It engulfed so fast, within five minutes the whole building was gone, so it was too late to do anything," fire victim Marvin Scott said.
The only thing Scott could save was his backpack, which got badly burned.
The fire department said everyone escaped the smoke and flames, but three people were treated for smoke inhalation.
Firefighters were able to save a cat, but some pets are still missing. "I don't know where my cats are," fire victim Lisa Robinson said.
Some tenants claimed their rooms don't have smoke detectors. "We never was woke up from a smoke detector, we don't even have extinguishers. The roaches live in them," fire victim Joel Jones said.
"I don't have that information if there were fire alarms that were sounding or anything like that at this point," Vallejo Fire Department spokesperson Danny Gutierrez said.
The motel owner told ABC7 News the building was up to code.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, but officials believe it started in a first floor room, and then quickly spread upstairs thanks to a fuel can that was left on the balcony above.