Fire officials say it's still too early to estimate the cost of the damage caused by a massive inferno that destroyed about half a block of New Westminster's historic downtown neighbourhood Thursday.

New Westminster Assistant Fire Chief John Hatch said firefighters continue to sift through the rubble.

"We have to make sure that structurally everything is sound before we start taking buildings apart," he said, adding that investigators still don't know what caused the blaze or whether it is suspicious.

Two buildings have been demolished and a third, housing the Fat Paint Company, is heavily damaged and may need to be torn down.

Fat Paint co-owner Bradford Lambert says he hopes firefighters will let him enter his shop to recover a few items before they demolish it.

"If we can get in there and grab some important documents, some files, a picture of our mother, that would be nice," Lambert said.

"I'm feeling a little devastated, sure, but optimistic in the sense that our business is going to flourish elsewhere."

With files from Stephanie Mercier