L.A. County firefighter killed in explosion in Antelope Valley

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.

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

L.A. County firefighter Andrew Pontious
L.A. County firefighter Andrew Pontious was a nearly two-decade veteran of the fire service. (Los Angeles County Fire Department)

Speaking to reporters Friday evening, Marrone said the firefighters were battling flames that hadengulfed “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 the agency’s homicide bureau andarson unit had started a death investigation, but 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.

Read more: 5 firefighters hospitalized after blaze at unpermitted cannabis operation in downtown L.A.

Los Angeles 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, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn said that Pontious left behind a wife and stepdaughter.

A Los Angeles County firefighter was killed in a explosion
An overview of the area where a Los Angeles County firefighter was killed and another injured in an explosion Friday. (KTLA)

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 semitruck fire.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.