An overnight fire in Aylmer has destroyed a heritage home owned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The first 911 call came in shortly after midnight Saturday. Neighbours say it took about an hour before the home was fully engulfed in flames. The cause of the fire is under investigation but it is believed to have started in the basement of the former Saudi Arabian Embassy.

'Eventually the building was fully engulfed in flames and for security reasons we had to take out our firefighters, so it was a defensive operation. It was pretty big," said Stephane Denis, a Battalion Chief with Gatineau Fire.

Firefighters were on scene Saturday for more than 12 hours, working to put out all the hot spots. The building, ruined by the fire, was demolished to prevent the fire from reigniting.

Gatineau Police have launched a criminal investigation. Arson is suspected in this suspicious fire.