Fire was reported just after 5:30 p.m. in the 1100 block of North 63rd Street.
"I told everyone to get out. I saw black smoke coming out of the apartment that was on fire," resident Grace Hill said.
Hill lives next door to the unit that caught fire and is one of the dozens of evacuated residents who can't return home.
"I heard the cracklings in the wall. Black smoke came rushing out. I told the maintenance guy don't go in there," Hill said.
"People started banging on doors saying you have to get out, the 11th floor is burning. The water was gushing down into my apartment," resident Connie Thurman Teagle said.
Residents waited in the cold, as fire crews tamed the 52 minute long fire that started at the top the 93 unit apartment building.
Fire investigators say all 196 residents were accounted for.
"There happens to be damage in some of the units, smoke and water damage, Licenses and Inspections are inspecting these apartments to make sure the damage is not to the point where it cannot be occupied again," Philadelphia Fire Lt. Bernard Gilliam said.
Residents tell Action News the fire alarm regularly sounds off, and didn't immediately realize this wasn't a false alarm.
"It was scary this time, this time it wasn't crying wolf," resident Thaiasha Ewell said.
By 9 p.m. all but those living on the 10th and 11th floors were allowed to return home.
"I don't know where I'm going to sleep. I don't even have my ID. All I have is my coat and hat," Hill said.
The Salvation Army is helping those residents who are displaced.
Fire officials say it's unclear if the homeowner where the fire started was home at the time, but there were no injuries.
The fire remains under investigation.