Investigators have been trying to determine whether arson was the cause of a Christmas Day blaze at a north Edmonton strip mall.

Eight businesses including a Bonanza restaurant and a pet shop were  destroyed and the damage has been estimated to be about $12 million.

“I had to see it,” Bonanza employee, Lavon Duthie said.

“I couldn’t believe it.”

Duthie said a staff meeting of workers from the restaurant has been planned for Thursday.

However, she added, she expects she’ll have to find another job.

“I've been working part time while getting over cancer treatment,” she divulged.

“So I'm on a tight budget and this is a little scary.”

The fire began around 2 a.m. on Tuesday.

Officials say a truck was found inside the front of the restaurant but they are still not sure what started the fire.

“I can't say what the cause of the fire is, whether there was an accelerant after that, but I do know that this fire was well underway when we pulled on scene,” District fire Chief Lorne Corbett said.

Crews were working in -23 degree Celsius that day and it proved to be a difficult task.

“A couple of pumps that were on scene had to go back to the station to thaw out,” Corbett explained.

He added that numerous hand lines also froze and one hydrant stopped working.

Many said they were surprised at the extent of the damage.

“I didn't realize it took the whole strip mall there, that's insane,” Zachary Eliuk told CTV News.

“I heard there was a fire but I didn’t expect it to be this bad,” Kieran Steele added.

The two had come to work out at a nearby gym but were sent away due to a lack of water at the facility.

“It was pretty shocking driving up here to see it,” Steele said.

With files from Amanda Anderson