No one was injured in the fire at the Royal Oaks Apartments off 15/501 in Durham.
The building that caught fire had 20 apartments and only one was vacant -- which means that 19 families are homeless.
Firefighters stayed at the scene until late Wednesday, but they weren't able to save the building because it was completely destroyed.
"(That) big brick that just fell was my window," said Leianna Cypress, one of many residents who gathered to watch the blaze. "It's very depressing, it's very sad. We built a lot of love in that house, and we just lost everything."
Many families scrambled out of the apartment as soon as they discovered the fire.
"Where the fire started, it was right above my boy's bedroom," said Christine Mayenzanise, a resident. "Yeah, over my son's bedroom where he was watching television. And I was calling my kids loud, saying, 'Fire! We need to get out of here.'"
The Red Cross assured everyone Wednesday evening that they would get help.
People who lived in the apartments say there was an electrical problem recently.
The building does have a fire wall, but firefighters said the flames just lapped around it. The building did have smoke detectors but no sprinkler system, which was not required.