The fire was reported at 5:50 a.m. by residents on Southwood Drive, but when firefighters responded, they saw the flames were coming from the rear of a row of businesses in the 1500 block of Ocean Avenue, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said.
Crews eventually controlled the blaze at 7:29 a.m., Hayes-White said.
One firefighter suffered a medical emergency while battling the flames, and another suffered a shoulder injury. Both are expected to survive, Assistant Fire Chief Tom Siragusa said.
Siragusa said firefighters encountered dangerous conditions in the fire, including a backdraft when they opened a door and there was "virtually an explosion" because of all of the smoke and energy that came into the room.
Hayes-White said, "The conditions were challenging, but the crews did a very good job."
Up to nine businesses on Ocean Avenue may have sustained some sort of damage, from the Happy Bakery and Deli and King's Coffee & Tea on the eastern side of the block down to a Walgreens on the western end, Siragusa said.
He said the fire reached so many businesses because many share attic space in two adjacent buildings.
Several homes on Southwood Drive were briefly evacuated because of the fire, and the backyard fence of one home was destroyed, Hayes-White said.
Ken Piper, who lives on Southwood Drive, said he woke up around 6 a.m. and "could see the flames coming up" the back of the building. His home was not one of the ones evacuated.
Piper speculated that the fire may have started in one of the restaurants on Ocean Avenue. "They have kitchens in the back and a lot of oil," he said.
However, as of 9 a.m., the cause of the fire remained under investigation, Siragusa said.