LAUREL, Md. (WJLA) - The fire began around 4 p.m. in the afternoon on Tuesday, and ABC7 has learned that it started in a furnace on the second floor of this Laurel apartment.
Resident Philip Myers says it had just been repaired hours earlier.
"Our youngest was home and he smelled smoke -- it got worse and worse, so he grabbed the dogs and luckily he got out safely," he said.
The superintendent of the building reportedly called the fire department, but before they could get there, the flames were six feet high.
Arriving fire crews began warning residents to evacuate the building.
"They told us to get out and I banged on everybody's door in our building and got everybody out the building," said resident Ross Hughes.
Additional fire units responded as backup, and 11 units in all were damaged - leaving many without a place to go on Christmas Eve.
Still, Roberto Delosantos and his family can count their blessings:
"Thank you God, because I got my friend -- he called me two days ago and said, Come to my home on the 24th."
The good news? Everyone managed to get out safely. Firefighters even rescued two dogs.
If you'd like to help those families and others, donate here: http://www.redcross.org/dc/washington