THREE shops were left with significant damage after a fire broke out in William St, Howard about 7.50pm on Sunday.
Authorities were alerted by 000 caller reporting they had seen flames coming from the buildings and that they had heard some kind of explosion.
Crews from the Maryborough fire station were first on the scene, followed by crews from Childers, Craignish and members of the Howard rural fire brigade.
The firefighters had to enter one shop wearing breathing apparatus in order to locate and remove gas cylinders which were inside the property.
It took two hours for firefighters to extinguish the blaze.
The stores affected included the Coalfield Cafe, a veterinary surgery and a home brew store.
The fire is believed to have started in one shop and spread to the others but investigations are still underway to determine the cause of the blaze and where it started.
All three stores have been affected by fire and smoke damage.