"Somebody was trapped inside one of the houses, and the firefighters were trying to get to him. I don't know if he survived," he said, adding that firefighters ordered him to leave the area.
Once the flames were out, firefighters went through what was left of the neighborhood, one home at a time, in case people had been left behind, Fire Lt. Bonnie Hensley said. They used search lights until dawn as they peered into the ruined buildings.
Along with the two people killed, seven people were taken to a hospital with injuries, Bacon said. Everyone else was accounted for, he said.
Four of the seven who were injured had minor injuries, fire officials said.
Dan Considine, a spokesman for Citizens Energy, said the utility had not received any calls from people smelling natural gas in that area.
"Most of the time, when there's a gas leak, people smell it," he said. "But not always."
Carson said officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and the federal Department of Transportation, which have oversight over pipelines, were also sending investigators.
Dan Able, a 58-year-old state employee who lives across the street from the two homes that exploded, said his first thought was that a plane had hit his house.
The blast was "a sound I've never heard before, it was so loud," he said. His windows blew out and a bedroom ceiling collapsed on his wife, Jan. He pulled her out, and they went outside.
"Both houses across the street were on fire, basically, just rubble on fire," he said.
The Ables and about 200 other people evacuated from the neighborhood were taken to a nearby school. Some who had been sleeping arrived in their pajamas with pets they scooped up as they fled. Others had to leave their animals behind, and police said later in the day that they were trying to round up those wandering through the area and find their owners.
Most evacuees eventually left the school to stay with relatives, friends or at hotels.
The relief operation was later moved to a church just a few blocks away, where residents could find supplies including blankets, shoes, diapers, canned goods and even a teddy bear.