Kelcy Patterson owns the home where political operative, Mario Zervigon and his family lived. She's also his mother-in-law.
"My husband Jim and I raced over here and the streets were lined with people," Patterson said.
Patterson said she could feel the heat from the fire near the corner of Prytania and Constantinople streets.
"Flames were well over the building. The two cars were blazing like a bonfire on the levee," says Patterson.
Fire investigators said Thursday at about around 2:30 a.m., Zervigon's cars, one across the street and the other in the family's driveway, caught fire at the same time. The flames quickly spread to the house where Zervigon and his wife were asleep in a bedroom just 5 feet away.
"This was totally on fire," said Patterson, as she walked through the wreckage. "This wall separated the two apartments and you can see the steps."
With the fire raging in the back bedroom, the family knew they had to get out, and their first thought was to save the children. They rushed over to the room where the kids were sleeping.
"Katie ran in and she just grabbed them and carried them out. Katie was holding Eli. He said, 'mommy, it's just a dream.' He's a child and I believe for a moment, he thought it was a dream," Patterson said.
The reality of what happened, though, has family members asking why. Not only were the Zervigon's lives in jeopardy, but a second family who lived on the top floor of the home had to make a narrow escape.
"It's a miracle they got out. The stairs were gone and it's just a miracle they got out," Patterson said.
Three pet cats died in the fire.
As ATF agents and state fire marshals investigate what's being called a suspected aggravated arson, Patterson is hoping for justice.
"Maybe they will turn themselves in. For right or wrong, they didn't intend to try and kill eight people. We all know that, but I'd love to see justice," Patterson said.
While both families are trying to find another place to live, Patterson said there's been an outpouring of support from the community to help.