Ann Corcoran heard the pounding seconds after flipping off the television.
“I was getting in bed and, all of a sudden, all I heard was a bang, bang on the back door,” she said.
Then she heard the voices.
“Everyone out, fire,” she said.
Flames were crawling up the side of the 105-107 Newbury St. home early Friday and two police officers, Andrew Kalp and John Leary, were racing through the three-story house to alert people inside.
Some were asleep. Others, like Corcoran, were just heading to bed.
In all, at least 15 people, including five children, escaped the fire reported to police shortly after 3 a.m..
The two police officers smashed the glass of the front door to get into the house, then bolted through the building to alert the people inside to the blaze.
“I may not have made it if there was not a knock on the door,” said Patrick Lewis, a second-floor resident.
He said when he got outside he could see how serious the fire was.
“It just rose and rose all the way up the side of the house,” he said.
Valentine Eke, who lives on the first floor, said he heard a fire alarm sound and the banging on his door.
Police went to the house after someone called to report there was a suspicious man hanging around outside — then reported there was a fire.
“By the time they got there, the fire progressed quite a bit,” Police Lt. Kevin O’Connell said. “One side of the building was pretty much engulfed.”
All of the residents escaped, including five children aged 5, 7, 10, 11 and 13, he said. There were 15 or 16 residents in the building at the time.
Deputy Fire Chief George Phillips said by the time firefighters arrived, the blaze spread from the first to the third floor.
“The whole, entire side of the house was on fire,” he said. “It penetrated the windows on the first, second and third floors and was starting to get into the building.”
The fire started on the south side of the house, he said. Although there were smoke detectors in the house, the fire “had a good start” before they activated, he said.
The state fire marshal’s office has joined the investigation.
Investigators are now trying to identify and find the man seen outside the building shortly before the fire was spotted. He was described as an older, white man wearing gray shorts and work boots.