Ten fire engines and 72 firefighters and officers attended a fire at a range of shops on Ley Street in Ilford.
Two shops were badly damaged by the blaze. Another two neighbouring properties were also affected by fire. A number of gas cylinders were found at the rear of one of the properties.
Station Manager Matt Burrows said:
"A number of cylinders were found at the rear of a shop. Quick thinking firefighters were able to drag the majority of the cylinders away from the fire which prevented a possible explosion. Eighteen residents and a number of shop workers have been evacuated but there are no reports of any injuries."
The Brigade was called at 0738 and the fire was under control by 1041. Fire crews from Ilford, Stratford, Barking, East Ham, Leytonstone and Dagenham fire stations were at the scene. The cause of the fire is under investigation.