The blaze erupted just before 6:30 a.m. in the basement of 1029 42nd St., near New Utrecht Avenue, and had spread to every floor of the building an hour later, fire officials said.
“I was sleeping. Next thing I know, everyone was yelling, ‘Smoke!’” said the building's owner, Riccardo Grey, 56, who has lived there with his extended family for 30 years.
Grey bolted to the basement, where his son-in-law kept his 2-year-old pit bull, Nala.
"I opened the basement door, and smoke started coming out," Grey said, adding that he was forced to flee and hasn't seen his pooch since.
Laura Gonzalez, 50, who lived with her family on the building's second floor, said the flames overwhelmed residents.
"When they looked in the basement, it was completely on fire," Gonzalez recounted. "We started screaming, 'Everybody get out!'"
More than 150 firefighters were on scene battling the three-alarm blaze.
Five firefighters and Gonzalez's 23-year-old daughter suffered minor injuries.
The firefighters were treated at the scene, and Gonzalez's daughter, who was not identified, was taken to Maimonides Medical Center for smoke inhalation and shock, officials and relatives said.
All 17 residents were inside the building when the fire erupted, fire officials said.
The Red Cross will provide displaced residents with emergency housing and other forms of relief, officials stated.
The blaze was under control about two hours later, a fire spokesman said, but not before completely destroying the building.
Gonzalez said she had just celebrated her birthday days before.
"Everything's lost," she said. "This is my 50th birthday present: I'm homeless."