Adrianna Louder and her friend Brandy Wagner were riding their bicycles up and down Newton Street when they saw the fire. It was just before 7 p.m. Friday.
"We saw smoke coming out of the window," Louder said. "I pointed to it and said, 'Fire! Fire!' She said, 'Let's go. ... We just got on our bikes and took off."
The two 10-year-old girls, who are classmates at Maplehurst Elementary School, went directly to Louder's Baker Street home, about one block north of the fire.
"I wouldn't have known about it if it weren't for my daughter," Robert Louder said. "They came in scared to death. They said there was a fire on Newton Street."
Louder, when he arrived, jumped out of the car and saw a back window explode. "I started pounding on doors and windows," he recalled.
The Norwalk man was in the building for about six minutes.
"I got some response. They took off running," Louder said.
As he shared the story of his heroic efforts, Joseph Lyons, of Pleasant Street, thanked Louder for saving his 2-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter. The two children were at the baby sitter's in one of the Newton Street apartments.
Lyons' fiance, Cassie Williams, who was in an upstairs apartment, called him about the blaze at 6:56 p.m.
"I called you before the fire department got here," Williams said. "I work third shift. I was sleeping."
She grabbed her two children and left the building. Williams said three of the five families living in the apartment building were there when the blaze started and had to be evacuated.
Samantha Fisher was visiting her boyfriend's sister when she noticed a peculiar smell.
"I smelled something that smelled like a burned grilled cheese sandwich," Fisher said. "It wasn't an outrageous smell. You could just barely smell it."
About that time, Louder pounded on the door. "He said, 'Get out. There's a fire,'" she said.
Norwalk Fire Capt. Don Helton declined to say if arson could be the reason for the fire, which was reported at 6:45 p.m. His report indicates the blaze was coming out of the rear window of apartment 5-A upon arrival. Firefighters were on scene until 10:15 p.m.
Helton estimated firefighters had the blaze under control in "the first 10 to 15 minutes" and used about 500 gallons of water. A state fire marshal's investigator is expected to arrive this morning to determine the cause.
The apartment complex, which is owned by Willard Rental Properties, sustained an estimated $20,000 in damage. The occupants will be spending the weekend in a hotel, thanks to the Red Cross, firefighters said.