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Los Angeles County firefighter killed in quarry explosion honored with procession

Procession for Los Angeles County Fire Department Firefighter Andrew Pontious as he is laid to rest
Procession for Los Angeles County Fire Department Firefighter Andrew Pontious as he is laid to rest 02:19

The body of Los Angeles County firefighter Andrew Pontious was carried from the county medical examiner's office to Forest Lawn-Covina Hills cemetery in a somber 20-mile procession Wednesday morning.

Pontious, 52, was killed June 14 while battling a fire at an Antelope Valley quarry, after a burning front loader exploded.

The 19-year veteran firefighter is said to have had a genuine love for helping people and leaves behind his wife, Kim; his stepdaughter, Sara; parents Gary and Ellie; brother, David, a former county fire department captain; and an extended family.

Starting at 11 a.m., firefighters from the L.A. County and L.A. city fire departments joined firefighters from West Covina and Alhambra fire departments and other public safety agencies in a procession. It was led by a fire truck carrying the flag-draped casket.

During the procession route, firefighters and first responders stood at attention on freeway overpasses, as the engine transporting Pontious drove past.

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.

The quarry equipment explosion also injured another firefighter, who has not been identified. The second firefighter was treated at the hospital and released.

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.

Firefighters stand at attention on an overpass as Los Angeles County firefighter Andrew Pontious is transported in a procession to the Forest Lawn-Covina Hills cemetery. KCAL News

"I don't know how the fire started and I don't know what exploded," Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Anthony Marrone said at the time, 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."

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

He was known for his exemplary work ethic, unwavering positive disposition, and genuine love for helping people, department officials said.

At the end of the procession, the firetruck carrying Pontious passed under a large hanging flag as it pulled up to Forest Lawn. The casket was ceremoniously unloaded and saluted by a line of first responders as it was carried into the cemetery's chapel in preparation for funeral services.

Earlier this year in February, nine Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters were injured while responding to a semi-truck fire in Wilmington. As crews approached the truck to put out the flames, there was an explosion.

The semi-truck was running on two 100-gallon tanks of compressed natural gas, and one of the tanks exploded due to pressurized cylinders. 

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