According to investigators, one of the residents had turned on an electric heater and then heard a "whoosh."
"I was in this apartment," Russ Havard, one of the home's occupants, said. "It made a little spark, and that's when I heard the noise behind the vent right there."
He opened the closet, saw a wall of fire, and got the other resident out safely.
"And the flames were probably already up in the ceiling about a quarter of the way."
Havard had seconds to call 911 and search for occupants. He found none. However, he didn't know that a hearing-impaired tenant was asleep in one of the units, totally unaware of the blaze. Fortunately, a neighbor reminded him of the possibility.
"And that was exactly what was going on, and he was kinda coming out coughing when they knocked the door in," Havard said.
Firefighters were called to the scene around 8 p.m.
Investigators believe there may have been a gas leak behind the walls. Once the heater came on, it sparked the fire.
"There was raw gas coming out of the main pipe in that room going straight into the attic space, and it spread pretty quick through the attic," Del Birdwell, a fire marshal with the Nacogdoches Fire Department, said.
The deaf man's hearing aids burned. The graduate art student lost her original works. An out-of-town tenant had to ask a friend to look for a cherished memory of her recently deceased dad. There were losses, but everyone is safe and grateful.
"The firefighters were great and the neighbors were just incredible, so that's the main thing I want to say."