Neighbors helped one another escape from a smoky apartment fire Saturday morning in northwest San Antonio.
The fire started shortly before 10 a.m., and firefighters from 20 companies fought the blaze at the Crossing Apartments on Babcock Road.
Crews had to break through walls to get to the stubborn, smoky fire.
Residents who huddled in the parking lot wrapped in blankets against the chilly morning temperatures said they are grateful to the neighbors who saved them.
"Out of nowhere this man is telling us, 'You need to leave! You should leave.' There's smoke rising up. We panicked. We were trying to get out as fast as we can," Reyana Tejada said.
Madison Gonzalez said she thought she smelled smoke before she stepped in the shower, but she thought the odor was coming from her heating unit, which had just been turned on for the first time this season.
Moments later, she said, it became obvious the problem was much bigger.
Both Tejada and Gonzalez said they never heard smoke alarms sound while the smoke swirled around them.
“Our fire alarms, I don't know why, but they started dying. Then we didn't know what was going on. We're just happy that man told us all about it," Tejada said.
"They came and knocked on the door and he came and got me out the shower and then by the time I came to the front door it was just black smoke. I couldn't even see the stairs," Gonzalez said.
All the people made it out safely, and so did the pets. Firefighters from Station 10 saved two turtles by carefully hauling an aquarium to safety.
Gonzalez said “I forgot my rabbit. They had to go up there and get him when everyone else was evacuated. They had to break down my door.”
Meanwhile, Tejada’s family cuddled their family pet, a lizard, in blankets.
A damage estimate and cause are still pending for the blaze. The San Antonio Fire Department said an electrical problem might be to blame, and an arson investigator is looking for clues.
“Luckily, crews were able to get control on the fire rather quickly and prevent it from spreading significantly into other units. At this time, they're doing a damage assessment so we don't know exactly how many tenants will be displaced, or if so, for how long," SAFD spokesman Woody Woodward said.
Woodward said anyone who needs help will get it.