A fire that police are treating as suspicious burned through a Laval strip mall early Monday morning, leaving nothing but the wreckage of multiple stores.

The fire began shortly after 3 a.m. inside one of the storefronts on René Laennec Blvd. near Lausanne Rd., and quickly spread to the adjoining businesses.

The co-owner of Patisserie Vimont, Tony Cerone, arrived soon after the fire began.

"To my greatest surprise when I arrived at 3:30 the flames had already started," said Cerone.

"Right now I'm still a bit in shock. It's very hard. It's your work, it's your life."

He called his partner at 4 a.m. to inform him that their livelihood was destroyed, and had also seen the owners of the other establishments in the strip mall.

Firefighters were unable to save the depanneur, the bakery, the ice cream store or the hair salon.

"It's a total, total loss. It's coming down, everything is coming down. There's nothing to be saved," said Cerone.

"Right now it's just too emotional."

Laval police spokesperson Sgt. Genevieve said the cause of the fire is currently unknown but that the fact it was so widespread has them treating it as suspicious. 

"The investigation is going on, we don't have any information on which businesses were targeted," she said. 

It took more than six hours after firefighters arrived to get the fire under control. Crews had problems because they were unable to turn off the natural gas lines running to the building. Firefighters ended up ordering the excavation of part of a nearby street in order to locate a shut-off valve or to cap a pipe, work that was finally completed at 9:30 a.m.

"There was difficulty cutting (the gas line) because it was underground," said Major. 

The cause of the fire is unknown although police believe the fire could have been deliberately started. Laval's arson squad is investigating.

Last Thursday another Streakz hair salon, part of the same chain, was firebombed in another part of Laval.

There are reports the boutique is owned by a woman with ties to the Montreal Mafia.

Nearby homes were evacuated, but none of the 41 people were injured. Laval fire department head of operations Claude Lussier said several residences were left without electricity because of the fire but service has since been restored.