From her home on 17th Street in Brownwood, Valeri Deason heard a "little thump" around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and looked outside.

Looking at nearby Avenue K, Deason the wife of former Bulletin editor Gene Deason saw a power line draped across the fence and mailbox of a home.

"I saw dust in the air," Deason said. "I thought the power company was putting up new line."

What Deason had just heard, she learned a short time later, was the sound of a sport utility vehicle striking a power pole in front of a home in the 2800 block of Avenue K. The SUV knocked down the pole, leaving power lines in a tangled mess.

It also damaged a gas meter and ruptured the line that fed the meter, sending a geyser-like flame into the air until Atmos Energy workers could dig up the line and clamp it later Wednesday afternoon, Brownwood Fire Chief Del Albright said.

The accident left a three-block area of Avenue K between 14th and 17th streets shut off to traffic as fire trucks, police cars, an ambulance and utility trucks with Atmos Energy and Oncor Electric were parked on either end of the area.

Residents of several homes stood in their yards and watched the activity or gathered at the edges of the areas police had cordoned off.

The SUV's only occupant was the driver, a man who told police the steering had gone out on the vehicle, police said. The man was not injured.

The residents of the home closes to the accident were evacuated, and electrical power was out for some of the neighborhood, Albright said.

Atmos workers were finishing up as of 4:45 p.m., Albright said, but Oncor workers were expected to be working until 10 p.m., Albright said.

Albright said the initial call indicated that either the vehicle or the meter was on fire. "What (first responders) found was, a vehicle was badly damaged," Albright said.

"It hit a telephone pole and knocked down lines. The transformer was lying on the ground with the power pole, and the gas spewing from the gas meter had ignited. We can't really put it out with water when gas is spewing."

Deason said the streets in that neighborhood are usually very quiet but "it got much busier" after the accident.

"The traffic certainly picked up as sight-seers came around to see what was going on, and the emergency vehicles."