NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Nearly two dozen people have been displaced after a fire ripped through a building in Queens and then quickly spread.

The blaze broke out around 10 p.m. Thursday at a three-story apartment building with stores on the ground floor on College Point Boulevard.

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In less than an hour, the flames spread to the buildings next door.

“I see all the flames flying from the other building to my terrace so we just jump to get out of the house and when we come outside, it was all fire blazing on that building,” said victim Mo Mitib.

It took more than three hours to get the fire under control. During that time, residents held their breath as thick smoke filled the streets, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported.

“Unbearable,” Mitib said. “Burning eyes and you can’t breathe.”

“My wife screaming,” resident Jorge Carmona told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “We live on the third floor, we look to the stairways to the second floor, it was completely on fire. Difficult to decided what to do. We put a blanket over my daughter and we run down the stairs and just five minutes later, it was the complete building on fire.”

Carmona’s family of six is among 22 people left homeless.

“The little one… she fell down on the floor, looking at the house, saying ‘My house, my house.’ Crying for the house, worried about her toys,” Carmona said.

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Other residents were waiting to find out if they would ever return home.

“Neighbor gave me shoes and clothes,” said victim Wahiba Smith. “I’m still waiting to hear how this happened.”

The fire completely destroyed four buildings. The wreck of one of at least one of the buildings will be demolished, workers told Bauman.

Some residents said if it were not for the heroism of neighbors, the damage could have been much worse.

“‘Get out, get out, the fire next door, you have to get out.’ Thanks to him, I get out and see the fire in my backyard and behind my house everything,” said Smith.

Some residents have been left with just the smoky clothes they ran out in.

“I don’t have any answer. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Carmona said.

Officials said nine firefighters were also injured.

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The cause of the fire is under investigation.