An overnight fire on Potlotek First Nation’s Chapel Island in Nova Scotia that destroyed several cabins has been deemed suspicious by police.

The fire, which destroyed 14 of the approximately 170 cabins on the island, was discovered just before 1 a.m. on Monday.

By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, several of the cabins were engulfed by flames.

It’s a sight that was heartbreaking for many residents.

“You felt such an emptiness all of a sudden - a hollow feeling,” Bernadette Marshal told CTV Atlantic. “It’s all the memories. They’re all gone with a flick of a lighter or whatever.”

The island is a traditional gathering place for the Mi’kmaq people, who have been meeting on the island for hundreds of years – since before European contact.

Potlotek Deputy Fire Chief Quentin Doucette said the island is practically deserted during the winter months, with no electricity.

With no obvious cause for the fire, members of the community were quick to think the fires were deliberately set – in what they say is a sign of disrespect to the First Nation.

“We’re losing a lot when they do that, because the island is very sacred to us and we’ve been going for years and years,” elder Mary-Anne Marshall said. “There’s a lot of history there.”

The RCMP say they are working with the Office of the Fire Marshall to investigate, and that multiple ignition points have been identified.