ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- More than 40 people, who call Buckingham Commons home had a fiery awakening Sunday morning.

"Woke up this morning, my girlfriend and I, to a large banging on our apartment,"  John Donlon, a tenant of Buckingham Commons recalled.

"It looked like the building was going to blow up," Mercedees Boutte, who is also a tenant of Buckingham Commons, said.

"Come to find out it's the Rochester Fire Department and our building is on fire," Donlon added.

They all got safely out thanks to Captain Bob Mulcahy. He saw the flames and made the initial call to get crews to the corner of Plymouth Avenue and Allen Street.

"You never think you're going to drive down the street and see something like that, but there it was," Mulcahy said.

A 27-year-veteran of the Rochester Fire Department, Mulcahy takes no credit for saving lives. He insists he was just doing his job.

"You just have to get things going," Mulcahy said. "Get to the building, make sure people are getting out, pull some alarms, and see what you can do."

The heat from the fire could be felt from the ground below.

"The initial concern was to get a line up there," Deputy Chief Bob McEneaney, Rochester Fire Department explained. "The first company got a line up there real quick and started protecting the stairwell and got residents off of the seventh floor."

Firefighters were battling more than the flames.

"I don't believe the alarm system worked when it was pulled," McEneaney said.

Crews had to go door to door evacuating the 36 apartments.  

Eighteen of Rochester's 20 fire companies responded to the scene, resulting in more than 100 firefighters battling this blaze.

While you can't see the damage from below, a bird's eye view from a tenant who was flying home shows the aftermath. Fire officials said the two top floors have water damage. Parts of the roof also caved into units below. All are feeling thankful it was just material items that were lost.

"(We are) incredibly lucky this guy on his way in that he saw this fire, he called it right away," McEneaney said. "He called for a second alarm, we are incredibly lucky considering the alarms would not go off in the building."

"That is a sight you never want to see," Boutte said.

Tenants are not allowed to stay in the building Sunday night. They are being put up by Buckingham Properties. The company did not want to comment on the incident. The investigation into why the alarms did not go off and what caused the fire is ongoing.