Alexandria resident Arnoldo Jimenez got cell phone video of the fire as rolling smoke and frightening flames started with a spark and quickly overtook much of one building at the Morningside Apartments on Zircon Drive.
Witness Samar Faris described what it looked like. "I saw a big bubble of gas, flames. sparks starting at bottom floor and within two or three minutes turned into large flames and they engulfed they second floor as well and became this huge bubble of smoke and quickly reached the third floor."
When rescue crews arrived - flames engulfed the building and filled the stairwell. Most residents got out safely but three adults and a few pets needed to be rescued and three women were taken to the hospital for burns and smoke inhalation.
Assistant Chief John Causing of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department said two people on the front side of the building and one on the rear side were rescued with ground ladders. "This is the event our firefighters train for. This is the worst case scenario," he said.
Fox 5 News spoke with the woman who lives in the apartment where the fire began. She didn't want to show her face on camera but did show us the burns she was treated for at the hospital. Hours after it happened - she was still shaken.
Her friend Afomya Cherinet explained what happened. "She was inside the apartment with her kids and she doesn't know where the fire came from at all," she said.
Investigators began immediately sifting through the charred debris looking for the cause of the fire that damaged six units - destroying everything that some residents owned. But there was relief too - since nobody lost their life.
"We are just thankful she is alive and the kids. What's most important is the kids," Cherinet said.
The Red Cross is working with building management and people who live in the affected building to make sure everyone has a place to stay for the night.