SAN JOSE -- Cecilia Maldonado escaped a raging apartment fire with her life -- and a broken heart.

Though spared by the inferno at a West San Jose apartment complex, Maldonado lost her parents and her 4-year-old daughter, Kyra.

"My parents, my baby," the young woman cried on Bridgeport Court, a street lined with two-story apartments filled with working-class residents. She couldn't remember how she managed to escape a blaze so severe it forced 56 residents from their homes.

"I don't know, I don't know," she said. "I just woke up, and the room was on fire."

Two friends held the sobbing Maldonado by the arms and helped her walk to another apartment in a separate building where she could rest. Two of her brothers, Bulmaro Jr. and Angel Maldonado, arrived later to begin the painful planning of funerals for their parents, Bulmaro and Mariana Maldonado, and their niece.

A relative in the apartment, Juan Carlos Maldonado, 23, was sent to the intensive care unit of an area hospital, according to Vanessa Pulido, a cousin.

The Maldonado brothers said their father, originally from Michoacan state in Mexico, was a landscaper at a nearby golf course and had lived at the apartment complex for about 20 years. Mariana Maldonado was a homemaker. Neighbors described the family as quiet and cordial.

The fire destroyed the family's apartment and damaged one below, and a few more in the same building had smoke damage and lost electrical power. Most of the 56 displaced residents are expected to return after a few days, authorities said.

Useless extinguisher

Angel Maldonado, 18, said he was staying with friends in another apartment in the same modest-sized complex when the fire broke out about 11 p.m. After running to his parents' apartment on the second floor, he said he picked up a nearly empty fire extinguisher that had apparently been tossed outside, but it was useless against the blaze.

"Once I got over there -- the flames!" he said as he stood and wept on the street watching a crew board up the apartment. "The fire was already too big."

Several residents called 911 after spilling out of their apartments.

"The fire sounded like thunder," said Felix Bracamontes, 78, who lived in the same building. His 11-year-old grandson, Rodrigo Vargas, was staying overnight after a trip to Christmas in the Park in downtown San Jose.

"I just heard bottles and glass breaking and the girls screaming," Rodrigo said.

Badly damaged

A San Jose police officer responded first and ran up to the apartment, but he was too late to save anyone inside, according to Sgt. Jason Dwyer. Firefighters attacked the blaze and kept it from spreading to other apartments, knocking it down shortly after midnight.

The police officer who arrived first and another person were taken to area hospitals after suffering smoke inhalation, said San Jose fire Capt. Mary Gutierrez.

The apartment was so badly damaged that a member of the cleanup crew could not tell how many bedrooms it had. Some walls had been burned away. All morning long, displaced residents of nearby apartments came by for clothing to take back to the motel rooms rented for them by the American Red Cross.

Gutierrez said fire investigators had not determined the cause of the fire.

"It's not an easy investigation," she said. "It's going to be a long investigation."

Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767. Follow him at Twitter.com/JoeRodMercury.