A stubborn fire destroyed three historic buildings in the heart of Moose Jaw on New Year's Day, leaving business owners and tourism officials reeling.

Seven businesses were lost in the blaze, which broke out mid-morning. Twelve hours later, fire crews were still struggling to contain the flames.

"We thought we had this fire under control at approximately three o'clock," said Fire Chief Garth Palmer. "We couldn't make an interior [search] because of some of the structural conditions of the walls. So, [the fire] did extend, and it caught on to the two other buildings."

It wasn't until late at night that fire crews cautiously said they had the blaze contained.

Palmer say the firefighting was also made difficult by the old timbers in the historic buildings. "The buildings are joined together all the way along here. There's no serious fire separation in them," he added.

Damage to the buildings is estimated in the millions. However, many people say there will also be extensive damage to Moose Jaw's tourism industry.

The three buildings were in the heart of a tourism area which promotes the Tunnels of Moose Jaw.

Nobody was seriously hurt, but Some firefighters suffered smoke inhalation and frostbite.