FAMILIES in Ellesmere Port were evacuated in the early hours when firefighters dealing with a series of wheelie bin blazes spotted a gas leak nearby.
About 27 people were turfed out of their beds and evacuated just after 1am on Tuesday.
After the fires were reported to crews at midnight firefighters on two engines from Ellesmere Port fire station saw the gas pipe was leaking and called gas operators Transco.
At 1.22am police were alerted and arrived to evacuate three houses adjacent to the alleyway and five flats above Discount Beds Factory Outlet on Whitby Road, Ellesmere Port.
The fire was put out and Transco dug up the road and capped the gas. Firefighters checked every room of the shop using a gas probe to check gas levels.
The gas leak was reported to police at 1.22am after wheelie bins were set ablaze in an alleyway outside the store.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service were called to extinguish the flames while Transco dealt with the leak.
Cheshire police spokeswoman Rachel Hayes said the residents were allowed to return to their properties after two hours, by 3.30am. Fire crews noticed the fire had also affected roller shutter doors on an adjacent property.
As the keyholder could not be contacted, they had to force their way in to check there were no signs of fire inside.
Some items inside the shutter door had scorched but there was no major damage.
A fire investigation is now underway and anyone with any information is urged to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or Cheshire police on 101.