Fire officials are investigating the cause of an early morning fire that destroyed the Sears outlet in Woodstock on Tuesday as area residents struggle to come to grips with the loss.

Woodstock Fire Chief Ricky Nicholson says arson is not suspected.

"At this time, it is not a suspicious fire," he said.

Fire crews were called to the Sears store, located on Scott Street on the outskirts of the western town near the Trans-Canada Highway, at about 4 a.m.

The building was almost fully engulfed on arrival, said Nicholson.

"In route, we could see the glow in the sky. I knew then that we had a working fire," he said.

Firefighters from Hartland and Debec were called in to assist.

It took more than two hours to contain the flames, with a total of 28 firefighters on the scene, he said. Crews remained on the scene for several hours.

The building and its contents are a total loss, reduced to rubble, said Nicholson. They went up quickly, fuelled by flammable furniture, such as mattresses.

Fortunately, the winds were blowing the flames away from a gas station located near the store, Nicholson added.

Area resident Lorraine Stone, who drove by to see for herself how bad the fire was, said she is "devastated.

"It's a big loss. A real big loss," she said. "I just hope that they'll rebuild so we can continue to shop here, for sure."

The store owner wasn't available for an interview, but a relative said the store was run by five family members and one other employee.

It's too soon to know when, or if, the store will be rebuilt.

Margie Nyeste, a board member of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, who has owned a clothing store in town for 27 years, says losing Sears, even temporarily, is huge.

"It's all a trickle effect," she said. "You know, you feel everything that goes wrong when it comes to a small community."