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'Like It Was Designed To Burn': Apartment Building Gutted In Early Morning Inferno

Neighbours woke to screams from people inside an apartment block as it was engulfed in flames.

Fire broke out at the two-level building on Dolphin Street in Coogee in Sydney's east in the early hours of Monday morning as dozens of people slept inside.

Emergency services rushed to the building after receiving more than 20 calls for help. NSW Fire and Rescue confirmed the building was "fully involved in fire" when they arrived at the scene at about 5am.

The fire broke out as dozens of people slept inside. Photo: 10 News First

The initial responding crew was joined by two others and together it took about 30 minutes to contain the fire.

At least 40 people who were inside the building managed to evacuate themselves and one woman was taken to hospital with minor burns to her hands and feet.

NSW Fire and Rescue confirmed the building was "fully involved in fire" when they arrived at the scene. Photo: 10 News First

10 News First understands the building burst into flames after a heater caught fire.

Residents in neighbouring properties were also evacuated by NSW Police.

Lewis, a resident of Dolphin Street, lives in the building next to the burnt apartment block. He told 10 News First the fire took hold of the building quickly.

The building burst into flames after a heater caught fire. Photo: 10 News First

"I got all my stuff together and ran out. We are right to the side of it, so it was all just smoke coming in so we just had to duck and just run away," Lewis said.

"We just stood and watched and about 40 minutes in we thought it was over and then we heard a bit of an explosion over the top and it just cooked to be fair ... it was like it was designed to burn."

Dozens of people were evacuated from the building. Photo: 10 News First

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The fire was completely extinguished by 9am, but due to significant structural damage, residents are unable to return to their homes at this stage.

Alternative accommodation is being arranged.

Residents are unable to return to their homes. Photo: 10 News First.

Neighbouring residents have been allowed to return to their homes as police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the cause of the fire.

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Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au