As smoke and flames shot from the windows of the Federal View Apartments late Sunday night, bewildered residents gathered outside only to hear the piercing screams of a woman on the third floor. "Grab my baby!" she yelled through the sounds of shattering glass and rushing air. "Grab my baby!" Out from the top floors — one by one — people jumped for safety through a thick, black haze. And then, witnesses say, the woman began tossing out young children.
Patrons from an adjacent 7-Eleven and a homeless man who had made his camp nearby came to try to catch the kids, according to bystanders. One young boy was unconscious and blackened by smoke and burns.
"It was ugly," said Jorge Hernandez, who was rescued from his second-floor apartment by firefighters.
Eleven people were hospitalized — two in critical condition — after the fire near the intersection of West 26th Avenue and Federal Boulevard. Authorities say the cause of the two-alarm blaze, which began on the third and top floor, remains under investigation.
One resident, Jesus Perea, said he heard a muffled explosion, screams and pounding before fire alarms began sounding about 9:15 p.m.
Another person called 911 to report what sounded like fighting as flames spread through the top floors.