A fire in a mobile gun range at the Pitchess Detention Center sent two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies to the hospital on Tuesday morning, according to law enforcement officials.
The mobile range was reported to have caught on fire with deputies inside as they were qualifying for their service weapons training, according to sources within the Sheriff’s Department.
Two deputies, reportedly in critical condition, were transported to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital by other deputies. Two other deputies were looked at by first responders, but there were no additional confirmed reports of injuries, according to the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department was notifed of the fire at 9:40 a.m. The fire burned for nearly four hours before being knocked down at approximately 1:20 p.m. Craig Little, spokesman for the Fire Department, said the fire was contained to the mobile range.
Firefighters initially were taking “defensive positions” around the area, according to Little. Access to the range was limited due to safety concerns posed by ordinace inside the range.
During a press conference at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, Sheriff Robert Luna confirmed details of the fire. He said the fire was contained to the mobile range but threatened the adjacent structure.
Pitchess was on lockdown, at the time of this publication. However, Luna said there was no threat to inmates. Mobile ranges were shut down across the county as the Sheriff’s Department conducts an investigation into the cause of the fire, which will take time as deputies assess the risk of the range at Pitchess and its potential to contain unexploded ammunition.
Luna said the two deputies transported to HMNH were both veteran deputies — one had been with the department for 21 years and the other 17 years.
“In regards to the deputies, I’m not going to identify them at this time,” said Luna. “We’re still in the process of contacting family for both out of respect for that.”
The extent of the deputies’ injuries was presented by Dr. Marc Contreras, a trauma surgeon at HMNH, who said they were in “critical, but stable condition.”
“We are providing the best care possible and are continuing to provide the best care possible for the two officers at this time. However, due to confidentiality issues for patients, I cannot give specific details regarding their injuries, but rest assured we are providing the best care possible for their speedy recovery and treatment,” said Contreras.
Later in the day, shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Department released a brief update that said, “The two injured deputies have been transported from Henry Mayo Hospital to LAC + USC Medical Center for futher medical treatment. There is no additional information at this time.”
Reporters pressed Luna for more information in regards to the cause of the fire, to which he responded by saying that an investigation would hopefully answer those questions.
“We want to know, obviously, No. 1 — we don’t want this to happen again,” said Luna. “So we need to know why it happened and get to the bottom of it, so we prevent it from happening again.”
Luna was also asked about why initial reports indicated that an explosion occurred, to which he responded by saying, “Honestly, we still we do not know at this time everything that happened.”
Luna also said that, to the best of his knowledge, the two deputies were the only ones inside the range when the fire occurred.
The cause of the fire remained unknown Tuesday afternoon and Luna said it would take time for deputies to safely investigate and ascertain the cause.
L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger issued a statement Tuesday letting the deputies know they have her “full support duing their recovery.
“I send my deepest thanks to the swift and courageous first responders who rushed to the scene. Their unwavering commitment to the safety and well-being of our community is invaluable and should never be taken for granted.”