The fire broke out at the Lakes Apartment Complex, which is near the intersection of Spring Forest Road and Falls of the Neuse Road.
Randy Rijo was nearby visiting his girlfriend when he heard a woman in unit G screaming for help.
"I hear the beep from the fire alarm and I hear the lady screaming, 'help, help," Rijo said.
Rijo said he went into the apartment and the woman inside handed him a fire extinguisher.
"She couldn't work it. It had a safety pin on it, so I pulled it, she took me to the back room," he said. "I tried to spray it, I even got some all over myself, but it was just too much."
Rijo and another good Samaritan, Friday Igbinovia, helped the woman trapped inside the apartment and her dog to safety.
The division chief on scene told ABC11 paramedics transported the woman to Wake Med Hospital for smoke inhalation.
An eyewitness to the blaze said she spoke briefly to the injured woman after she was able to escape the fire.
"She told me that she had a cigarette in her hand and she fell asleep and woke up and it was a fire, and she tried to put it out and I guess she couldn't," Bobbie Matthes said.
Officials said it took 44 fire fighters about an hour to knock down the flames.
In all, 24 apartments had to be evacuated, displacing roughly 60 people.