Eyewitnesses say they saw a woman on the roof waving and screaming as smoke was coming out of the home.
"She was on the roof and I saw her hanging out the window fanning," Eyewitness Darrian Malone said. "And I was telling my grandma, 'grandma look at that lady.' I thought she was just joking or something - you know or smoking you know. But then I saw more smoke coming out and I was like, 'oh its on fire.'"
Malone, who lives across the street, then called 911.
Meanwhile, a man driving by stopped and asked a neighbor for a ladder to help the woman escape.
"She was screaming hysterically saying her house was on fire and somebody help her, help her," said the man - who only goes by the name Richard.
The woman, Carrie Dixon, was too afraid to come down the ladder and waited for firefighters.
"When you're scared of heights and you have to come off a roof and the fire's upstairs where you are its hard," boarding home resident Carrie Dixon said. "The fireman, thank God, he got me down."
But before her rescue, Richard saved another resident.
"There was a disabled man in there in a wheelchair," he said. "So since he was in there and the smoke was getting thick, I decided to run inside the house and I put the man in the wheelchair and then I rode the gentleman out the front of the house."
Paramedics treated two people for smoke inhalation.
Authorities have determined the fire started in an upstairs bedroom on the bed.
The occupant of the room was not at home at the time of the fire. But some residents are blaming the new tenant's girlfriend.
"We believe that she started it, because as soon as she left we saw smoke," Dixon said.
Investigators haven't confirmed a cause, but say they're looking for the woman residents say they saw leaving.
Authorities say there are 11 rooms inside the home, but they were not sure how many people call the boarding house home.
Displaced resident Tamika Robinson says she is more worried about where she'll stay and her belongings.
"My son's medication and all of mine and my boyfriend's things and basically our future, because our whole life was here," she said.
The Red Cross is helping the displaced residents.