It began around 8:15 p.m. Investigators believe it started in a hair salon in the strip mall located in the 1900 block of Cheltenham Avenue in Cheltenham Township.
"With it being a deep-seated fire and legacy construction building, it's hard to get it opened up and find the fire," Ogontz Fire Company Police Chief Kevin Lynch said.
Chief Lynch wasn't at the scene overnight, he stayed well into the morning, as did other fire crews who were putting out flames that sparked back up.
What made fighting the fire even harder, the heat and humidity, and the strip mall customers who didn't want to leave.
"Sadly when we first arrive especially toward the lower end of a complex the civilians were not cooperating. They wanted to continue with their shopping or their pool hall and everything else we actually had to have police assistance in removing them," Lynch said.
The fire was quickly upgraded to a three-alarm fire.
Residents like Betty Crockett watched as firefighters went to work in the heavy smoke.
"There was a good turnout with the fire companies, I must say that," said Crockett.
Firefighters were on the ground and on the roof of the building as they fought the fire.
There were no injuries.
The hair salon where the first may have started is gutted. A cigarette shop next door is damaged.
The fire was placed under control at 10:55 p.m.
Fire officials are investigating a cause.