A GAS leak behind businesses in Prince Street in Grafton early yesterday morning forced the evacuation of residents from a flat above a shop.
Newsagent worker Brian Carroll was getting newspapers ready for his delivery man about 4.30am when he smelt gas in Imesons Lane.
As they packed the delivery car in the lane, Mr Carroll heard a hissing sound and noticed the smell was becoming stronger.
Police were informed and within minutes the fire brigade was called to evacuate and seal the area.
Two residents living above one of the shops were evacuated as firefighters searched for the source of the gas. The leak was traced back to a faulty valve on one of two 500kg LPG gas tanks attached to the rear wall of the Domino's Pizza outlet.
A simple containment job was made difficult by locked protective metal dome casing on top of the gas tank.
According to Grafton fire chief Greg McLennan, extra caution was needed to gain access to the valve beneath.
"It was just a simple leak but it was one of those things ...we couldn't cut it (the dome protector) and we couldn't knock the lock off because one spark and half of Prince Street would be gone," he said.
A COFF Harbour man with keys for the protector lock was called but Mr McLennan eventually managed to stop the leak by squeezing his finger through a hole in the dome casing and turning the valve off.
Using a gas-detector, firefighters then scanned to area to ensure no pockets of the heavy LPG gas had settled into nearby drains and stairwells. The all-clear was given three hours later at 7.30am.