Twenty firefighters were called out to tackle a blaze which torched the rear porch of two shops in Walsall.
Fire crews from Walsall and Bloxwich were called to the rear of a textile shop and MM Homestores, in Corporation Street, Caldmore, at around 5pm today.
The blaze left the shops smoke-logged and five people had to be evacuated from neighbouring flats.
Watch commander Andrew Nicholls, from Walsall fire station, said the cause of the fire was under investigation but it is not being treated as suspicious.
He said: "The fire created a 20ft smoke plume and it was hot enough to make all the plastic come off the walls.
"Nobody was in the shops at the time but we had to evacuate neighbouring flats."