The first crews on the scene reported fire was through the roof of the two-story apartment building.
Evacuations were already in progress as some firefighters attacked the fire and others began search and rescue operations.
The fire was out before 6 a.m., but firefighters continued to work hot spots into later morning hours.
One woman said her mother opened the door to their second-story unit and saw flames rush into the apartment from the breezeway. The family used bed sheets to create a rope and escaped through a window. Their dog is missing.
Another man said his mother woke him up at about 4:30 a.m. because she smelled smoke.
"As soon as we got to the street, we just saw fire. People were screaming and crying," Soye Olowu said.
The 18-year-old had lived in this apartment for 13 years, most recently with his mother and grandmother. He said the family is trying to stay optimistic.
"We're trying to keep in high spirits, look on the positive side of things," Olowu said.
Firefighters have searched all but one of the apartments, but said all the residents are alive and accounted for. They can't get into the remaining unit due to the roof collapse.
Fire officials said crews are working to get to the last apartment and have found collapse zones in several parts of the building.
They said the fire destroyed eight apartments, and no one will be able to return to their unit. The American Red Cross is assisting the 22 residents who have been displaced.
One child was taken to the hospital in good condition due to some minor smoke inhalation.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Editor's Note: Fire officials initially told 41 Action News the apartment building had 16 units. They later corrected their statement to say the building has eight units.