The North Cowichan Fire Department was called to a structure fire in the 5800 block of York Road just before 1 a.m. Saturday.
Firefighters arrived to find the building, located in a commercial area, completely engulfed in flames. The building housed multiple businesses, including the Good Neighbours Thrift Store. The businesses were not operating at that time but neighbouring properties had to be evacuated as firefighters contained the blaze.
Due to the suspicious nature of the fire, investigators with the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have launched a criminal investigation.
The Vancouver Island District RCMP Forensic Identification Services and the Fire Inspector with the Municipality of North Cowichan are also investigating.
Police are requesting the public avoid the area as the investigation is ongoing and the surrounding roadways are cordoned off.
People having any information are asked to contact the North Cowichan Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522.