A fire that flattened a store in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Wednesday is being treated as arson, police said Wednesday.
"Never in a million years did I anticipate something like this," Morris Hill, the owner of Mother Wood Timber Mart said.
"It's total devastation for us and our family."
Hill purchased the building in January of 2015, and had recently put it up for sale for $4.5 million.
At peak season he employed about 16 people, and on a day like Wednesday there would have been about 12 people working.
"My employees are all concerned, of course, because they're out of a job today," Hill said.
"It is a lot of people that are out of work this morning and I feel really bad about it. My manager and I are working towards seeing what can be done in that situation."
Firefighters were called to the Kelland Drive store around 2:45 a.m.
The building is a complete loss, and firefighters were dousing nearby warehouses in an attempt to keep the flames from spreading.
"What we've lost is a total hardware store. It's from a nut-and-bolt to every plumbing fitting you could think of. Windows, doors, anything that a traditional hardware store would have in stock," Hill said.
Police said in a statement around noon that the fire was suspicious in nature, and anyone with information is asked to call the RCMP.
Fire Chief Brad Butler said when crews arrived the building was already engulfed in flames, so it was a priority to try to contain the fire and keep people away.
"Nasty issue with this type of building," he said.
"All that's stored inside, all the wood and all the paint, propane issue storage in the other building, so just keeping everybody away and trying to control the fire."
Firefighters were trying to save nearby warehouses, but Butler said at least one is a loss.
A warehouse further away was able to be saved, but a loader was also destroyed.
Butler said he expects firefighters will remain on the scene all day, to keep hotspots down.
After a temporary road closure, RCMP have reopened Kelland Drive to traffic.
When it's safe to enter the building, RCMP investigators will work to confirm the cause.