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L.A. County firefighter killed in quarry explosion identified

Andrew Pontious, a 19-year veteran firefighter, was killed when part of a burning front-loader exploded



By Marilyn Kalfus
Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES COUNTY — A 19-year veteran firefighter killed when part of a burning front-loader exploded at a Littlerock quarry is being mourned this weekend by Los Angeles County officials, law enforcement and fire agencies and private citizens.

“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 learning about the death on Friday, June 14 of firefighter Andrew Pontious .

“It’s 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’m committed to ensuring our fire personnel are connected with needed mental health support as they grieve.”

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

“L.A. County firefighters are our front-line warriors who put their lives in harm’s way 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 has fallen, the victim of an apparent explosion of a heavy-duty truck in Palmdale . Our hearts are heavy, and we send our deepest condolences to the firefighter’s family and loved ones for their ultimate sacrifice.”

Similarly, Hahn noted the sacrifices, and risks, faced by firefighters every day.

“Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of Andrew Pontious , a brave LA County Fire Fighter who served the department and protected Los Angeles County residents for 19 years,” Hahn said. “His tragic loss in the line of duty [Friday] afternoon is a stark reminder of the selflessness and bravery that define 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.”

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

L.A. County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone said a short time after crews arrived, perhaps around 2:10 p.m. , an explosion occurred, killing Pontious and wounding 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 the 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 “wonderful man. He was married. He’s a father. It’s just such a tragedy.”

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

Fire crews kept their distance from the equipment, which was in an isolated dirt area and did not present any danger of spreading flames to other vehicles. Crews kept a hose line on the vehicle and most of the flames appeared to have been doused by early evening.

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

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

“On behalf of @LASDHQ, we offer our sincerest 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 citizens.

“ The Orange County Fire Authority mourns the loss of Firefighter Andrew Pontious who passed away in the line of duty today,” the agency posted on X, formerly Twitter. “Our thoughts and our 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 thoughts on social media, including state Sen. Scott Wilk , who represents the Antelope Valley, Victor Valley , and most of the Santa Clarita Valley .

“Absolutely heartbroken to hear that an (L.A. County) firefighter died in the line of duty today,” he wrote. “It’s a stark reminder of the dangers our firefighters face every day. My prayers and deepest condolences are with his family during this unimaginable time.”

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

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