Authorities say fire caused house to explode in N Carolina

Authorities say a fire caused a house in North Carolina's largest city to explode, injuring at least two people

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A fire and house explosion in North Carolina's largest city left two people injured and prompted a rescue operation Tuesday in case anyone was still inside the splintered home, authorities said.

Charlotte Fire Department Battalion Chief Matt Westover confirmed at an afternoon news briefing that an operation was being carried out but he wouldn't elaborate on the mission. His department tweeted earlier that it had to summon additional emergency responders following the blast.

"The operation is rescue based for the residents that were inside the home. I don't have an exact count," Westover said. "We won't confirm an exact count until we have thoroughly exhausted efforts to search all of the area."

News outlets reported flames and smoke were still coming from the rubble after the explosion.

Area resident Paul Aarons told The Charlotte Observer his entire house shook and he heard a massive boom. The boom seemed so close that he thought someone was driving into his garage.

Aerial coverage of the scene showed wood scattered at the site and debris blown into the adjacent street as well as into some surrounding trees and nearby yards. Firefighters used a ladder truck to get closer to the flames that erupted from the explosion.

Westover said other homes in the vicinity of the explosion were safe, but those homes nearby received significant damage. A first response agency, Charlotte Medic, told news outlets two people living in surrounding homes were being evaluated for injuries that weren't considered life-threatening.

Reports indicated firefighters who were in full gear when they reached the scene but were down to their T-shirts as they worked amid the rubble in scorching heat. Temperatures in Charlotte on Tuesday afternoon were in the 90s. A photo credited to the department showed some firefighters sitting under a tree and around several large coolers.

Later, firefighters set up a red tent where several had gathered. Westover said about 84 firefighters were at the scene.