Veteran Los Angeles County Firefighter Killed in Explosion

June 15, 2024
Firefighter Andrew Pontious, who had been with the department for two decades, was killed while battling a front end loader fire in an Antelope Valley quarry.

Libor Jany

Los Angeles Times


One Los Angeles County firefighter was killed and another injured Friday in an explosion that ripped through an Antelope Valley quarry as fire crews responded to a burning front loader, officials said.

Authorities identified the firefighter who died as Andrew Pontious, a nearly two-decade veteran of the fire service who was most recently assigned to a four-member fire engine at Station 93 in Palmdale.

"A wonderful man. He was married. He was a father. It's just such, such a tragedy," said county Fire Chief Anthony Marrone.

But as of Friday evening, officials hadn't released any further details about what caused the explosion, which occurred in the early afternoon in the 6500 block of East Avenue T in the Palmdale area.

Speaking to reporters Friday evening, Marrone said that the firefighters were battling flames that had engulfed "a very, very large articulated front loader that was working in a quarry" when the blast occurred.

"And I don't know what exploded," Marrone said during a news conference at Antelope Valley Medical Center.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Cmdr. Mark Reyes said that the agency's homicide bureau and arson unit had started a death investigation, but that it was too early to say what caused the explosion.

Hours after the blast, a KTLA-TV Channel 5 helicopter showed firefighters continuing to spray water on the front loader.

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger offered her condolences to the firefighter's family and colleagues, saying his death was "a sobering reminder of the dangers our first responders face every day."

"We owe them our steadfast support as they grapple with this loss," she said in a statement. "I'm committed to ensuring our fire personnel are connected with needed mental health support as they grieve."

In a statement, Supervisor Janice Hahn said that Pontious left behind a wife and stepdaughter.

Barger said that another firefighter was taken to a hospital with minor injuries but was expected to be released.

Earlier this year, nine L.A. city firefighters were injured when a tank of compressed natural gas exploded while they were working to extinguish a semi truck fire.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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