When firefighters arrived at the Waupleani Heights complex, flames were shooting through the roof.
A fire has destroyed a 19-unit apartment building near Penn State's main campus, leaving about 40 people homeless.
Firefighters rescued two people from a balcony during the fire, which began Thursday night. There were no injuries, and all residents were accounted for, Alpha Fire Company Chief Jeff Martin said.
Walter Jackson and his wife, young daughter and niece were at home in the State College building when the fire began and escaped with only the clothes on their backs.
"I smelled smoke, and two seconds later the alarm went off," Jackson told the Centre Daily Times. "My wife thought it wasn't serious, but I looked outside, and smoke was coming out of the top-floor window. I ran in and got them out and literally, as we were running out in under a minute, the whole thing went up. The whole roof was on fire."
Officials said about 40 firefighters fought the blaze, which is being investigated.
Many of those displaced by the fire, less than a mile from Penn State's campus, were university graduate students or researchers. Residents of at least 12 of the units were connected with the university and were offered temporary housing in campus dormitories.
The Red Cross on Friday was helping the families involved with food, shelter and clothing.