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LA County firefighter killed, another injured by explosion while battling truck fire at quarry near Palmdale

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CBS News Los Angeles Live

Los Angeles County firefighter Andrew Pontious was killed while battling a fire at a quarry near Palmdale on Friday when there was some sort of explosion, according to the department. 

The spot of a deadly fire in Littlerock on Friday, which left one LA County firefighter dead.  KCAL News

It happened a little after 2 p.m., at which point crews were sent to the 6500 block of E. Avenue, a rock quarry near the Pearblossom Highway, for a truck fire in the area, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said. 

A second firefighter was rushed to a nearby hospital for injuries suffered in the explosion, according to LACoFD Chief Anthony C. Marrone. They are expected to be released later Friday.

"I don't know how the fire started and I don't know what exploded," Morrone said.

Pontious, 52, was a 19-year veteran of the department who was a father and a husband, according to LACoFD officials. He was known affectionately by others as "Uncle" and worked at Fire Station 93 in Palmdale after spending time in El Monte, Rosemead, and San Fernando. 

"Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of Fire Fighter Andrew Pontious," said Fire Chief Anthony C. Marrone in a statement on Saturday. "Andrew was a devoted firefighter, husband, father, son, brother, and friend to many. He was our hero, and his sacrifice and memory will never be forgotten."

Andrew Pontious, the firefighter who was killed in an explosion while battling a vehicle fire near Palmdale on Friday.  Los Angeles County Fire Department

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau Arson and Explosives detail is investigating the matter. 

It remains unclear what caused the fire and what exactly exploded. 

With SkyCal overhead, a massive Caterpillar front-loader could be seen with large flames black smoke still billowing from its engine area. 

Fire and smoke showing from the construction vehicle with SkyCal overhead. KCAL News

An American flag was draped over the victim's body dozens of feet from the vehicle, which firefighters were still dousing with water form afar for hours after the death.

A lengthy procession was began at the quarry late Friday and continued as Pontious' body was transported to the coroner's office. 

"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," said a statement from Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. "His tragic loss in the line of duty this 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."

On Saturday, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement and had all flags at the state capitol flown at half mast to honor Pontious. 

"Jennifer and I offer our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and entire Los Angeles County Fire Department for the loss of Firefighter Andrew Pontious. His service protecting the Los Angeles community will never be forgotten," said a part of Gov. Newsom's statement. 

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