VANCOUVER -- Damage to five businesses on a busy stretch of Cambie Street is being called catastrophic after a massive fire broke out overnight.

The fire started around 2 a.m. on the east side of Cambie Street near King Edward, and according to firefighters the flames spread extremely quickly partially due to older construction after the fire got into an attic space.

Five businesses have been gutted. They include a cafe, a pharmacy, a medical clinic, a dry cleaner and a bubble tea shop.

Crews had to take a defensive attack to stop the fire from spreading to other businesses on the block, though some may have suffered smoke and water damage.

Seven cats were safely rescued from a neighbouring boarding business, according to Vancouver Fire Rescue Services' Capt. Jonathan Gormick

At the peak of the fire about 50 firefighters were on scene. 

By 10 a.m. the fire was mostly out but flames continued to flare up, as crews continued to pour water from ladder trucks.

Vancouver fire crews say there is so much smoke in the area people should keep their doors and windows closed and with those respiratory issues should stay away from the area altogether if possible.

There is no indication on a cause yet, and an investigation may be a challenge due to the severity of the damage. 

The fire department says the businesses will likely need to be torn down as it’s believed the buildings are now unstable, potentially making it impossible for a fire investigator to get a look inside.

There have been lane closures on Cambie Street and King Edward, with sections of both closed entirely through the morning. The fire department says there will likely be delays in the area through the day.

Nobody was injured.