Fanned by heavy winds, the flames quickly climbed the side of the two story house.
While the fire may have light up the night sky on Rugby Street in Brentwood , few people noticed at 1:00 in the morning.
"Everyone was sleeping and they could have died," Erick Landeros said.
Until Erick Landeros happened to drive by.
He jumped out of his car and banged on the door, waking the five people inside. Kathleen Calcano has lived here all her life.
"I always feel so bad for people who are in house fires. Never want to be in that position, and being in that position is really, really scary," she said.
She didn't even smell the smoke as the fire spread, but she, her husband and three upstairs tenants managed to escape with enough time to rescue four pets and call for help.
Fire fighters managed to knock down the flames before the fire did too much damage, but it was still tough for Calcano to take.
"The smoke was just unbelievable. Just standing out here seeing your house burn and you can't do a thing about it," she said.
Investigators ruled the fire an accident, most likely caused by a cigarette left to smolder in a seating area outside the house.
Calcano says she does have smoke detectors, but isn't sure if they ever went off.
She owes a lot, she says, to Erick Landeros - a perfect stranger who risked his life, to save hers.
"I just had to get those people out of the house," he said.