Five businesses suffered devastating damage in an overnight fire in downtown Bridgewater.

Mike Nauss, chief of the Bridgewater Fire Department, said firefighters were called at 10:30 p.m. Sunday to a structure fire at 535 King St.

"Very nasty, very time consuming and I know all of our guys are very tired right now," said Nauss, who noted seven fire departments ultimately responded.

The fire started on the ground floor where Big Daddy's Wholesale store and marijuana dispensary Green Way are located. Nauss said the fire then spread to the other side of the building and up to the second floor. A Rogers outlet and a tattoo parlour, Artistic Issues, sustained extensive water damage. A Keller Williams Select Realty location was also damaged.

People in the apartment above the tattoo shop were able to get out safely, however Nauss said it was completely destroyed by fire. Nauss said an apartment above the neighbouring Rogers store sustained heavy water damage and the roof was also damaged. Everyone in that apartment also made it out safely.

Bridgewater fire damage

Tattoo parlour Artistic Issues sustained extensive damage in the fire. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

Nauss said fire crews were able to get control of the fire around 2 a.m.

"Very high heat, intense — it was the whole structure burning, a balloon-framed building, which makes the fire go everywhere once the fire hits the outside walls."

Nauss estimates the building is well over 120 years old. Both police and the fire marshal's office are investigating the cause.

The road is closed between Dufferin and Dominion streets and the older of the town's two bridges across the Lahave River also remains closed this morning, according to Bridgewater police. 

Bridgewater fire damage

A firefighter assesses the damage to a block of buildings in downtown Bridgewater. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Jeff Lohnes watched the fire for two hours starting around 11 p.m. last night. He believes four or five businesses were destroyed in the blaze. The 55-year-old has lived in Bridgewater his whole life. 

"You couldn't see anything because there was so much smoke and then when it finally burned through the roof it lit up like nothing I've ever seen before," he said. 

"It was the worst fire I've ever seen, like those flames must have been 50 feet high."

Bridgewater fire damage

Some of the buildings that caught fire in Bridgewater Sunday night were still smouldering Monday morning. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The fire started at one end of the building and kept moving down the row of buildings, said Lohnes.

The blaze comes after recent paving work on King Street, as well as improvements to a nearby park.

The mayor of Bridgewater said the fire is going to have a big economic impact on the community. David Mitchell said it is a challenge to do business in small town Nova Scotia and any disruption is hard. 

"We want to make sure the businesses that can open, are able to open as quickly as possible," said Mitchell.

Bridgewater fire damage

The fire started on the ground floor where Big Daddy's Wholesale store and marijuana dispensary Green Way are located. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

"Those that are destroyed, hopefully through insurance and what we can do as a town through our planning and engineering department to make sure we can get them back on track."

Despite the damage, Lohnes said people won't be disheartened.

"It will bring everyone together, I know that. We'll start from scratch and go from there," said Lohnes.