State Flags to Fly at Half-Staff to Honor LACo Firefighter Killed Friday

Photo: Kube, Michelle (uploader)

LITTLEROCK (CNS) - Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered flags at the state Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of Los Angeles County Firefighter Andrew Pontious, who was killed in an explosion at a quarry in the Littlerock community southeast of Palmdale.

"Jennifer [Siebel Newsom] and I offer our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and entire Los Angeles County Fire Department for the loss of Firefighter Andrew Pontious," the governor said in a statement Saturday. "His service protecting the Los Angeles community will never be forgotten."

The 19-year veteran firefighter was killed around 2 p.m. Friday when part of a burning front-loader exploded while he was fighting a vehicle fire at a quarry in the 7300 block of Pearblossom Highway.

L.A. County Fire Chief Anthony Marrone said that 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, to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner's Office in Boyle Heights.

The second firefighter, who has not been identified, was treated at Antelope Valley Medical Center and released, Marrone said.

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 were doused by early evening.

"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.

Homicide and arson investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are overseeing the probe.

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."

Pontious, 52, also served the communities of El Monte, Rosemead and San Fernando during his career, according to a Los Angeles County Fire Department press release. He was known for his exemplary work ethic, unwavering positive disposition and a genuine love for helping people, department officials said.

New firefighters could always count on him for guidance and mentorship, the department said. When new battalion chiefs arrived, he was the first to give them a tour on their first day.

Pontious was also a talented cook who often volunteered even when not on the schedule. Known affectionately as "Uncle," Pontious was said to have enjoyed spending time with his family, hunting and studying wildlife. His passion for wildlife conservation was well-known among colleagues and friends.

His survivors include his wife and a stepdaughter. No funeral plans have been announced.

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