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Coogee Woman Describes Terrifying Escape From House Fire

Coogee woman Olivia Taylor has described the terrifying moment she woke up in the middle of a house fire.

"I literally woke up with black smoke engulfed in my face," the 23-year-old woman told 10 News First.

The two-storey share house where she was living caught fire in the early hours of Monday, forcing more than 40 people out of their homes and leaving a dozen homeless.

Authorities are investigating how the fire started, but Taylor believes it originated from her heater. Flames quickly spread to the bottom floor as embers fell onto the awning below.

"I just got everyone out as fast as I could," she said.

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

Her housemate, Jonas Nouaes, said he woke to the sound of Taylor screaming and said the fire was already intense.

“We knock on all the doors and ask for everyone to get out,” he said, retelling those frantic minutes before managing to escape down the driveway.

Similarly, Lewis Hesketh, who lives next door, was shocked out of his sleep.

“Woke up to screaming, someone saying 'fire, fire' and my door buzzer was being rung,” he told 10 News First.

“I just looked out and I just saw amber and thought ‘Oh no, this is not good’.

“It wasn’t a small fire by any means, it was almost like the building was designed to burn.”

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

Vision shows the Dolphin Street home engulfed in flames, spitting smoke and embers that threatened neighbouring properties.

Several dozen people were evacuated from neighbouring apartment blocks as firefighters attacked the fire from all angles.

NSW Fire & Rescue’s Inspector Tom Morrison said when crews arrived there were flames coming from the top and lower levels of the apartment, with fears held for one man who was still inside. However, he managed to jump out his lower level window and jumped the back fence

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

“I think all the residents are fortunate, if it had gone undetected for much longer, escape from the premises would have been difficult,” Inspector Morrison said.

“It’s very fortunate they all got out.”

Taylor was the only occupant injured, suffering smoke inhalation and minor burns to her lower limbs.

Olivia Taylor ran out in her pyjamas, relying on friends to bring her clothes. Photo: 10 News First.

"It was just lucky I woke up," she said. "Maybe two minutes later, I wouldn't have been able to get out."

Her neighbour from a street away, a complete stranger, sat with her to calm her down until she was eventually taken to Prince of Wales Hospital for further treatment.

“She was frightened and scared. I said, 'Where are your friends and family?' And she said ‘I don’t have any’," Daniel O’Brien explained with a tear in his eye.

“I know they haven’t got much, but as long as everyone's safe, they’ve got each other.”

Firefighters told 10 News First that half of the top floor is destroyed, along with the front rooms on the bottom level. They said the rest of the building is most probably damaged by heat, smoke and water damage.

“It’s timely to remind people to be wary of leaving on those sorts of appliances, candles and heaters and that, when you go to bed,” Morrison said.

“Obviously there's no one there to watch it and no one there to take care of it when it goes awry.”

Fire investigators, along with officers from Eastern beaches Police Area Command, spent the morning inspecting the property.

Photo: 10 News First

Those living in the share house, mostly backpackers and students, have been provided alternate accommodation at the Coogee Bay Hotel.

The owners tell us the apartment was insured.

Taylor, who only moved into apartment three days prior, said she's still very shaken up from her experience, and is too scared to be alone.

"I'm actually scared to close my eyes," she said.

"Because when I wake up, that's the first thing I see."

Contact the author: kpratt@networkten.com.au