Anchorage firefighters extinguished a stubborn three-alarm fire that engulfed much of a 38-unit apartment building Thursday and displaced a crowd of people, who stood outside the yellow police tape with neighbors and watched their homes burn.

The fire at 221 Meyer Street, the Glynwood Manor at the end of Peterkin Avenue in west Mountain View, started about 1:20 p.m. and was finally brought under control more than an hour and a half later, fire department spokesman Al Tamagni said. The residents outside included a recent surgery patient in a wheelchair and two women without shoes: Iuni Sio and Setolo Mile, who called 911 and warned others in the building.

A woman living upstairs yelled and said there was a fire in her kitchen, Mile said. Mile ran downstairs to Sio's apartment and told her to call 911. The two then banged on doors and tried to get others out before running.

"When I got out, it was already full of smoke and flames," Sio said. "It was too fast. All I'm thanking the Lord for is that our children were in school when this happened."

The first firefighters to enter the inferno were turned back by flames and unable to finish an initial search of the building. Tamagni said later that they'd completed the search and found nobody inside. There were apparently no injuries. An investigator was probing its cause, Tamagni said.

READ MORE: Fire consumes 38-unit apartment building in Anchorage