Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy dies six months after fire at shooting range

A veteran Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy has died six months after he was severely burned in a fire at one of the department's mobile shooting ranges, a family spokesperson said Sunday.

Alfredo "Freddy" Flores, 51, of Sylmar, died Saturday evening at Valley Presbyterian Hospital, where he was being treated for third-degree burns suffered when a tractor-trailer range where he was getting re-certified burst into flames last October in Castaic.

Flores, and a second injured deputy serving as range master, were initially taken to a local hospital in critical but stable condition and sent to Los Angeles General Medical Center for further treatment. Flores was transferred to Valley Presbyterian and never left the Van Nuys hospital, said attorney and family spokesman Joe A. Nunez.

Flores was a 22-year department veteran who worked at the North County Correctional Facility, Altadena Station and, at the time of the accident, Court Services West Bureau. "He was well-respected in the department and in the community and his passing will leave a huge void in the hearts of many who knew him," the Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

The department did not provide an update on the condition of the other injured deputy.

The blaze started around 9:30 a.m. Oct. 10 in the trailer, which was parked next to the men’s jail at Pitchess Detention Center. At the time, Sheriff Robert Luna said the department would conduct an investigation to find out the cause and "get to the bottom of it so we prevent it from happening again.”

The Department has relied on more than a dozen range trailers so thousands of deputies can test their skills four times a year as required by department policy. After the fire, the department shut down all of its mobile firing ranges, launched an internal investigation and called in the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for help.

It was at least the fourth time in less than a decade that a Sheriff’s Department mobile range caught fire.

In 2016, a contractor working on a trailer parked at the department’s Tactics and Survival Training Center using a metal grinder sparked a blaze. It is unclear how much damage it caused or if anyone was injured.

In 2019, a mobile trailer being used by sheriff's deputies at the Marina del Rey sheriff's station during a training exercise caught fire when a non-explosive device used to simulate a stun grenade started a fire that engulfed the trailer. All the deputies escaped injury.

That same year, a trailer parked near the Castaic jail complex caught fire. As with the 2016 blaze, officials said the cause was a contractor with a power tool. The department did not offer additional details.

Multiple range experts told The Times last year that mobile range fires appear to be rare but there is a risk of fire from unburned gunpowder at any range that isn’t adequately cleaned and ventilated.

In a statement, Nunez said Flores' family was "acutely aware of the inherent risks associated with the position" but nothing could have prepared it for "his untimely departure due to injuries sustained stemming from the malfunction of equipment during a training drill."

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn released a similar statement Sunday, saying that though Flores "put his life on the line every day to protect the communities he served, it is a terrible tragedy that he lost his life from what should have been a routine training exercise."

Nunez said the family was thankful the department is not using mobile shooting ranges and would not comment if they would be filing a wrongful-death lawsuit. He said he was serving as a family spokesperson.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been completed, he said.

Times staff writer Keri Blakinger contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.