Firefighters spent eight hours extinguishing a stubborn blaze that broke out in Vancouver's Kerrisdale neighbourhood Thursday evening, destroying seven businesses and one residential suite. 

The fire sparked at West 41st Avenue and Maple Street around 8 p.m., engulfing Papa John's Pizza, Petit C Nail and Lash Salon, MagiCream ice cream shop, On the Go clothing boutique, Image Hair Design, Sienna Fashions and Tam's Custom Tailoring.

Fortunately, everyone managed to escape, though Papa John's franchise owner Helena Han barely had time to turn off the gas oven before fleeing the restaurant.

"I was shaking the whole time," Han said.

Jesse Martin, a 42-year-old who lived above one of the businesses with two dogs, a cat and a snake, made it outside with all his pets, but his second-floor unit was also gutted in the fire.

“It doesn’t seem real,” said Martin. “Watched my house burn for five hours. And I’ve lived there since I was 19.”

The fire was a major blow to the community, destroying a string of small shops that both served and employed locals. Victoria Lopatka, who worked at MagiCream, said it was difficult to survey the damage Friday morning.

"Seeing it completely charred, the glass is gone, the ceiling's fallen down on it, it's just insane. Because last night it was white, perfectly clean, everything brand new," she said.

"I feel heartbroken for the people who own these businesses."

The ice cream shop opened less than a year ago and employed a number of young workers from the community, Lopatka said.

Fifty firefighters from three different fire halls spent a long night battling the blaze, and clean-up work was still going on when the sun came up. Despite their efforts, Asst. Fire Chief John Dennis said there would be no salvaging the structures.

"The building's a write off," he said. "You're not going to renovate it. It's going to come down, the whole thing."

The blaze was particularly challenging because it appears to have spread through the attics of the businesses, Dennis said.

"These old buildings, often they've been renovated many, many times. And often [the fire] gets caught up in all these different renovations and partitions in the ceiling and they travel across the whole building," he said.

After crews spent so many hours dousing the flames, water started to accumulate in the alleyway behind the block, raising concerns about potential flooding in neighbouring stores. City crews were dispatched to the area to unclog drains and pump out water to manage the risk.

The cause of the blaze has yet to be confirmed, but firefighters believe it started at the rear of one of the businesses on the exterior of the building.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim