Abbotsford fire crews spent the early hours of Saturday morning battling a blaze in a tire store that kept them occupied from dark until past dawn.

A witness who saw flames and smoke, dialed 911 around 4:30 a.m. and also reported he saw a person running from the scene, according to a release from Abbotsford police.

The witness described the person running away as a thin male who was wearing dark clothing and a hoodie.

"This is likely an arson," Cst. Ian MacDonald told CTV News. "We're certainly investigating it as an arson… I would suggest the building is all but gone."

The fire was substantial, according to police, and was made more challenging by the tire inventory at the site.

"Crews arrived and found the building was fully involved," assistant fire chief Craig Leighton told CTV News. "They had a difficult time fighting the fire [because of] the storage of tires on the second floor."

About 40 firefighters were involved in putting out the fire, Leighton said. They were able to save the adjacent building and limit the fire to the building of origin.

The tire store, OK Tire, was located on the 33,200 block of South Fraser Way.

The owners looked on as crews doused the fire.

Leighton said his crews entered the building after putting out the flames to recover paperwork and computer components to try and help the business.

Assistant manager Robert Friesen and his colleagues, however, may be out of a job for the foreseeable future.

"It's kind of heartbreaking, to think why somebody would do this to a place I basically live," he said.

Detectives from the Abbotsford Police Major Crimes Unit are working with the Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service to determine the cause of what police are calling arson. Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 504 859 5225 or to call Crime Stoppers at 1 800 222 8477.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Sarah MacDonald.