BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An investigation continues after a suspected gas leak led to an explosion in a Central Bakersfield apartment building. The blast rocked the neighborhood, ripping a wall away from the building, but key questions remain unanswered.

“I’ve been in the Army. I’ve been in situations where bombs were going off around me, hand grenades being thrown. But I’ve never felt anything like this,” said Bakersfield resident Robert Thomas.

Thomas was getting ready to celebrate his 71st birthday when he heard a boom in the apartment below him. Then a blast that threw him, and his dog, into the air.

“I thought an airplane hit the building,” Thomas said. “Then I get up and see a guy shooting out of his apartment from the impact.”

Emergency crews rushed to the scene, taking at least one man away on a stretcher as firefighters evacuated the building.

“We do have two confirmed injuries, both taken to area hospitals,” said Battalion Chief Brian Bowman of the Bakersfield Fire Department said Thursday following the incident.

Tom Mitchel lives a few doors away from the blast. He says he ran out of his room, then saw the man who lived in the apartment that blew up.

“We put him in the corner because he was on fire a little bit,” said Mitchel. “Then I called 9-1-1. But everyone was calling 9-1-1 at the time.”

It happened at the Park 20th Apartments, at 20th and V Streets. The complex was built with federal, state and local funding to house homeless veterans and low-income families. Gov. Gavin Newsom attended its grand opening 2019. Robert Thomas got to meet and sit with the governor the day of the ribbon cutting. But Thursday, which was Thomas’ birthday, was an even bigger thrill.

“I had the best birthday present I could have: I walked away,” said Thomas. “God saved me.”

Thomas and his neighbor, along with about 20 others, are now housed in a hotel for at least a week. About five more people could be out for months.

Firefighters say they’re still investigating what caused the apparent gas leak, and what sparked the explosion. No word yet on the conditions of the two people injured. The Kern Housing Authority declined 17 News’ request for an interview.