One man said he was alerted by banging on his door shouting at him to flee the high-rise block in Cottingley while a disabled woman had to take morphine just to summon the strength to shuffle down 14 sets of stairs on her backside.
As they watched the teams of emergency services put out the fire and begin an investigation from behind swathes of police tape and cordons, they said questions needed to be asked of fire evacuation plans and a sprinkler system that has been installed at Cottingley Towers since the Grenfell fire tragedy in London in 2016.
Phil Smith, 59, has lived in his first floor flat for 22 years and recalls around 50 fires in that time.
He said: "Somebody came pounding on the door screaming 'get out, there is a fire'. It is the first time in 22 years they have evacuated the building. It has gone into panic because of Grenfell.
"I came out onto the first floor landing and could smell burning plastic so I knew it must be a bad one. I saw firemen running in with all the hoses and we must have had every police officer in Leeds up here at one point."
Robyn Holland, 26, is disabled and lives on floor seven. She said when she moved in she had to have an evacuation plan but when the fire broke out today she said a police officer shouted to her through a window that she needed to get out.
She said: "I managed to take some morphine and did 14 stairs on my bum with the cat on my knee. They should have come with my chair to help me out. I could smell the smoke but coming down the stairs I couldn't hear a thing. It could have been quite panicky thinking what if I can't get down the rest of them but adrenaline takes over in those situations and I managed to do it."
Stuart O'Grady, 50, was on his way back to the flats as the drama unfolded in front of him.
He said: "I had gone to buy dog treats and there were two fire engines. I came out of the shop and everything was taped up. It was a bit of a shock and is very scary."
The fire broke out on the 20th floor of the Cottingley Towers flats, with people reported trapped, according to the fire service. The fire service was called shortly after 10.30am today. Crews from eight different fire stations were sent out the scene, with eight firefighters donning breathing apparatus.
Four casualties were brought to safety by firefighters and left in the care of paramedics.