Sisters Noreen Worthington and Amy Broughton, who run WB Furniture, directly opposite the site of the fire, were among the first to hear the explosion.
Speaking to the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times at the scene of the incident, they said: “We were inside our shop and suddenly heard a huge bang ‘boom’. The whole building shook. It seemed as though something big had landed or crashed into our shop. We looked out of the window and saw the flames and alerted the emergency services and the gas board.”
They added: “We don’t know when we will be allowed back into our business. We have been seeking refuge at Pendle Court who have been extremely nice and helpful.”
Staff were also evacuated from County Sales, in Pendle Road. Mr Duncan Jackson, managing director of the firm said: “We were informed by fire crews that the building had to be evacuated. Fifteen staff were waiting outside until we were allowed back in. Eventually, I sent them home because we were not sure how long it will take to extinguish the fire and make the area safe.”
Investigations continue into the cause of the ruptured gas main, but no-one is believed to have been injured and no property damaged.
Speaking as crews tackled the flames, Steve Morgan, of Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said a multi-agency operation has been immediately launched to ensure the safety of local people.
He added: “We have two fire crews from Clitheroe here and it took us approximately 90 minutes to actually establish the cause and to work with National Grid to extinguish the fire. We hope by late afternoon we are in a position to let people back into their homes.
“Investigations into the fire will be carried out in full by our colleagues at National Grid.”
Traffic was diverted through Hayhurst Street until Pendle Road reopened shortly after 1-30 pm on Tuesday.
A National Grid spokeswoman said: “We understand that a contractor working to replace a new electricity cable accidently damaged a two inch diameter of a small gas pipe. The pipe was in the middle of the road and therefore Pendle Road had to close. “We are now working to repair the pipe.”
Sisters Noreen and Amy who run WB Furniture, Clitheroe.