The fire broke out in a row of shops, known as the Orchard shops, in Eaglescliffe 1:45am this morning. It's believed the fire started in Figaro Pizza shop and quickly spread to neighbouring businesses.
Fire fighters said the blaze took hold in the roof space and spread as the wind blew it towards flats at the end of the precinct.
Three people were told to leave their homes as a precaution. But fire fighters were able to stop the flames before they reached the flats. Fire crews cut a channel in the roof and dampened it down to create a line so the fire couldn't cross.
At the hight of the blaze, more than 40 fire fighters were battling to stop the flames.
Five shops were completely destroyed and neighbouring properties were damaged by smoke. People who live around the shops say they're the heart of the community and their loss is devastating.
An investigation is now underway to establish how and where the fire started.