KUCHING: A pre-dawn fire destroyed 14 wooden shophouses in Serian town, about 65km from here.
The blaze, which broke out at about 3am on Thursday, gutted the trading premises of 27 companies housed in the two double-storey blocks.
The wooden buildings were built in the 1930's.
The fire was the worst that had hit the town along the Pan Borneo highway.
Two other fires in 1974 and 1995 destroyed fewer shops.
Shops that went up in smoke in Thursday's fire include those trading in sundry goods, telecommunication products and accessories as well as sports wears.
Also destroyed was a coffeeshop, a barbar shop and a shop which sold shotgun catridges.
There were no casualities.
Firemen took an hour to control the blaze and prevented it from spreading to adjacent blocks of wooden buildings.
According to eye-witnesses, families living on the upper floors of the affected shops ran for safety after they were alerted by night traders nearby.
Serian district officer Sindie Muleng said a relief committee had been set up to provide various assistance, including providing food for a food and some cash to the fire victims.
`All the victims are temporarily putting up with their relatives,'' he told reporters after meeting the victims.
Sindie said the relevant authorities would find a site for the affected companies to carry out their trade.
Serian criminal investigation department (CID) chief Asst Supt Suhali Solek said police were investigating the cause of the fire, which was reported to have started from the corner coffeeshop.
He advised companies operating in wooden shophouses to take extra precautions, and to check on the wirings of their premises