Procession honors LA County firefighter killed in front-loader explosion in Littlerock

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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Procession honors LA County firefighter killed in front-loader blast
A memorial procession was transporting a fallen L.A. County firefighter to his final resting place after he was killed when part of a burning front-loader exploded at a quarry in Littlerock.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Firefighters from the Los Angeles County and city of Los Angeles fire departments, and other public-safety agencies, formed a procession Wednesday to transport a county firefighter to his final resting place after he was killed when part of a burning front-loader exploded at a quarry in Littlerock.

Andrew Pontious, 52, a 19-year veteran firefighter, died around 2 p.m. Friday in the explosion at a quarry in the 7300 block of Pearblossom Highway.

Pontious leaves his wife, Kim; his stepdaughter, Sara; parents Gary and Ellie; brother, David, a former county fire department captain; and an extended family.

On Wednesday morning, firefighters from the L.A. County and L.A. city fire departments joined firefighters from the West Covina and Alhambra fire departments and other public-safety agencies in a procession to transport Pontious' body from the L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner- Coroner to Forest Lawn-Covina Hills cemetery.

Pontious also served the communities of El Monte, Rosemead and San Fernando during his career, according to the county fire department.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered flags at the state capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of Pontious.

"His service protecting the Los Angeles community will never be forgotten," the governor said in a statement a day after the tragedy.

Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Anthony Marrone said that a short time after crews arrived at the quarry on Friday -- 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 quarry to the 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.

Firefighters 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 at the time, 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 was known for his exemplary work ethic, unwavering positive disposition and 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.