It could be days or weeks before the cause of a massive fire that gutted a Dollarama on Windsor's east end is known.

"We have an idea where the fire started but we don’t know how or why," said Windsor Fire and Rescue chief fire prevention officer Lee Tome.

The Ontario fire marshal's office has been called to investigate and Windsor Police were on scene Tuesday.

Tome said a customer in the store noticed smoke in one of the aisles at 8:15 p.m.

Firefighters arrived at the Eastpark Shopping Plaza on Tecumseh Road East moments later and found smoke and fire shooting out from the store.

Meagan Clifford was finishing her shift at Fantastic Sam's a few doors down when she saw fire trucks arriving at the plaza.

"You just saw smoke coming out of the roof for about an hour," she said.

Heather Dufour was working late neighbouring Bencak Family Dentistry. She said she saw "giant flames" shooting from the building when she fled for safety.

Tome said firefighters went in the building and attempted to extinguish the fire but it had spread too quickly. Firefighters were unable to extinguish it before it got into the roof over their heads. At that point firefighters were pulled form the building, about an hour after they arrived.

"The fire got through the roof and the roof has collapsed into the store. Firefighters were able to stop the fire at the Dollarama," Tome said. "But there is some smoke damage

[and] water damage to the dentist office, beauty supply [store] and the Ming Wah [restaurant]."

Tome said no one was hurt but that the cost of damages will be in the multi-million-dollar range.

Dental practice vows to return this week

Bencak Family Dentistry was gutted by the massive fire Monday night. Dentist Michael Bencak plans on opening for business as early as Wednesday.


Jennifer Bencak holds a photo of her 10-week-old son Michael. The picture was salvaged from her husband's dentist office. (CBC News)

Bencak's wife Jennifer, who is also the office manager at the practice, said they'll get back to work at another location.

Their office at Eastpark Plaza was gutted but many of their files were saved. Jennifer Bencak figures the office's lead walls kept the fire at bay. She said computer hard drives were saved because they are waterproof.

"We're just looking forward to moving on and getting back to work," Jennifer Bencak said. "We're hoping tomorrow."

Staff was salvaging files Tuesday but Jennifer Bencak said a photo of their 10-week-old son Michael, that was on the reception desk and untouched by the fire, is the most important thing they saved.

"It's heartbreaking. When I pulled up the word 'dentist' was being burned off the sign," Jennifer Bencak said. "To see it just burn is unbelievable."

For other businesses affected by the multi-million-dollar blaze, it could be weeks before they open again.

Restaurant could be closed for a week

Fire destroyed the Dollarama store but it and water also damaged neighbouring businesses.


A burned out Dollarama barely stands on the city's east end Tuesday. (CBC News)

The owner of nearby Ming Wah Chinese Restaurant said his eatery sustained only smoke damage but that it is enough to close the doors for at least a week.

The fire alarm at his restaurant didn't stop ringing until just before 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Tome said structural engineers will be brought in Tuesday to determine the stability of what remains of the building before investigators can start figuring out what caused the fire.

"That part of the roof above the dollar store collapsed into the store so, at this time we're not having anyone go in to the building until we can determine that it's safe to go in," Tome said.

He said because of the extent of damage the Ontario fire marshal's office has been notified.