An early morning fire swept through a three-story tenement building Saturday, killing at least nine people, officials said.

The victims were believed to be members of two families who lived on the second and third floors of the wood-and-brick building in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood near the city's downtown.Another person, possibly a visitor, remained unaccounted for. Fire-fighters suspended the search Saturday night and planned to return Sunday. Most of the bodies found were burned beyond recognition, Fire Chief Thomas Keough said.

Harry Aiello, a neighbor, said he rushed outside after hearing an explosion and found a man in the back yard, crying and yelling for his family to jump to safety.

"I heard a big boom," Aiello said. "I thought someone had shot somebody with a shotgun. When I was dressed and got outside, I saw a big flame coming out."