SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- It was an emotional morning at the Timberwood Apartments in San Jose. A fire tore through 11 units, leaving 23 people without a place to live.
The fire started in one man's downstairs apartment inside a bedroom. He lived there with children and they all got out.
Neighbor Johvana Montoya raced home from work to save her dog. "When I got there he was in the bathroom, in the bath. Shaking, scared," she said.
Firefighters were called to the complex on Seven Trees Boulevard around 7:30 a.m. Cellphone video caught the flames bursting out of the doors and window.
A boy told ABC7 News someone threw a "fireball."
Some speculate that the motive for the incident could be racially motivated hatred.
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"I have heard those same rumors," said Capt. Mitch Matlow of the San Jose Fire Department. "All I can tell you is the investigators are working on the cause of the fire."
The idea that someone would target a family has neighbors concerned.
"I mean who did it? Why'd they do it? What's their motive," questioned neighbor Ricky Ojeda.
Ojeda lives in one of the damaged units. Firefighters had to rescue him and his brother. They found themselves trapped on the upper balcony.
"You can see all the smoke right there where the flames were coming up," Ojeda continued. "My brother woke me up. He said the fire was so hot he couldn't go out the door."
One firefighter had to be hospitalized.
The Red Cross and the apartment management are making arrangements to get housing for those families that can't go home.
Residents coping after 'fireball' burns 11 apartments in San Jose