LACo firefighter mourned after death in Littlerock quarry explosion – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Firefighter Andrew Pontious of the Los Angeles County Fire Department was killed in an explosion in Littlerock on June 14, 2024. (Courtesy of Los Angeles County Fire Department)

Los Angeles County officials are mourning a 19-year veteran firefighter who died when part of a burning muzzleloader exploded at a quarry in Littlerock.

“My deepest condolences to his family and the other firefighters at Station 93,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes the Littlerock area, adding that her “heart is heavy” after hearing Friday, June 14 of death. firefighter Andrew Pontious.

“It is a sobering reminder of the dangers our first responders face every day,” she said. “We owe them our steadfast support as they grapple with this loss. I am committed to ensuring that our fire personnel are connected to the mental health care they need as they grieve.”

Barger’s fellow supervisors, Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn, also expressed their condolences.

“LA County firefighters are our frontline warriors who put their lives in danger every day to protect us without hesitation,” Solis said. “They are true heroes who embody public service and personal sacrifice. Today, one of those heroes fell, the victim of an apparent heavy-duty truck explosion in Palmdale. Our hearts are heavy and we extend our deepest condolences to the firefighter’s family and loved ones for their ultimate sacrifice.”

Likewise, Hahn noted the sacrifices and risks firefighters face every day.

“Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of Andrew Pontious, a brave LA County firefighter who served the department and protected the residents of Los Angeles County for 19 years,” Hahn said. “His tragic loss in the line of duty (Friday afternoon) is a stark reminder of the selflessness and courage that defines our firefighters. My prayers are with his wife and stepdaughter, his Station 93 family and the entire LA County Fire Department who have lost a hero.”

The Los Angeles County Fire Department responded to the quarry in the 7300 block of Pearblossom Highway in the Littlerock community southeast of Palmdale on Friday around 2 p.m. for a report of a burning vehicle.

LA County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone said shortly after crews arrived, perhaps around 2:10 p.m., an explosion occurred, killing Pontious and injuring a second firefighter.

Late Friday, a procession of first responders escorted Pontious’ body from the 6500 block of E Avenue, at the Rock Quarry near Pearblossom Highway, to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office.

The second firefighter was taken to Antelope Valley Medical Center but was not seriously injured and was later released, Marrone said.

“I don’t know how the fire started and I don’t know what exploded,” Marrone said, noting that a thorough investigation will be conducted.

Marrone said Pontious was stationed in Palmdale and described him as a “great man. He was married. He is a father. It’s just such a tragedy.”

The large front loader continued to burn after the explosion, sending thick black smoke into the air.

Firefighters kept their distance from the equipment, which was in a remote dirt area and did not pose any danger of spreading flames to other vehicles. Crews maintained a hose line on the vehicle and most of the flames appeared to be extinguished by early evening.

Homicide and arson investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are overseeing the investigation.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Robert Luna joined other law enforcement officers from as far away as Charlotte, North Carolina, in mourning Pontious.

“On behalf of @LASDHQ, we offer our sincere condolences to @LACOFD as they mourn the death of one of their own,” he posted on social media.

Other tributes were shared by the California Professional Firefighters, the Glendale Fire Department, the Barstow Fire Protection District and dozens of other law enforcement agencies and private individuals.

“The Orange County Fire Authority mourns the loss of firefighter Andrew Pontious, who passed away in the line of duty today,” the agency wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and our brothers and sisters at the @LACOFD during this difficult time.”

Several California elected officials also shared their views on social media, including Sen. Scott Wilk, who represents the Antelope Valley, Victor Valley and most of the Santa Clarita Valley.

“Absolutely heartbroken to hear that an (LA County) firefighter was killed in the line of duty today,” he wrote. “It is a stark reminder of the dangers our firefighters face every day. My prayers and deepest condolences go out to his family at this unimaginable time.”

State Rep. Tom Lackey, who represents the Antelope Valley and High Desert, also posted a tribute.

“There are no words to adequately express the heartfelt sorrow and condolences in honor of this fallen hero,” Lackey wrote. “In times like these, we are reminded of the great sacrifices firefighters make for us. I send my thoughts and prayers to the family and the department at this time of this deeply tragic event.”