Tami Talebe, 30, who has lived in the building for six years, said she was "still in shock and concerned about where I'm going to live and the fact that I'm homeless.... I'm so sad.... I loved the apartment. I will never be able to live in this area with such low rents again."
In a frustrating twist, she said, she had even lost the clothes off her back.
"A friend of mine washed my clothes this morning, and someone broke into her basement and stole them," said Talebe, who works as a production assistant in Santa Monica.
She was reading in her third-floor apartment when an explosion jolted her from her chair. She ran and opened her front door, but heavy smoke turned her back. She knew there would be only one way out.
"I'm going to have to jump, I'm going to have to jump," she said she told herself, recounting how she had run to the window and screamed for help. She tore off the screen and shouted to a few young men outside, "You're going to have to help me!"
The strangers clustered together on the outside stairway. She jumped, they caught her and they all ran away from the burning building.
Late Friday she was able to retrieve the most prized possession in her apartment: the independent feature film that she has long been working on.
"The first thing I thought about after I jumped was my film," she said, adding that she was sore and achy Saturday. "I'm still going to go on finishing my film, but it will be a little more complicated, because I don't have a place to live."
Another tenant, Kevin Du Toit, 26, said his 2- and 3-year-old boys usually nap at home in the late afternoon, but Friday his wife had taken them to a Burbank park for lunch.
They stayed with relatives Friday night. On Saturday, they were briefly allowed back into their unit, for just long enough to throw essential clothing and shoes onto a comforter, wrap it up like a knapsack and leave for good.
"There is no way we can come back," Du Toit said after surveying the building. Although the fire did not reach their apartment, their belongings were soaked. "This is almost like a new beginning. I'm grateful to have my wife and kids. You can gain back the material things."
Times staff writers Stephanie Chavez, David Pierson and Hector Becerra contributed to this report.