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13-year-olds arrested in connection with library blaze that killed firefighter

Fire Capt. Raymond Figueroa, left, was killed in a fire Feb. 18 at the Porterville library. Firefighter Patrick Jones is missing after battling the blaze.
Fire Capt. Raymond Figueroa, left, was killed in a fire Tuesday at the Porterville library, and firefighter Patrick Jones is still unaccounted for.
(Porterville Fire Department)

Two 13-year-old boys have been arrested in connection with a deadly fire at a public library in Central California that left one firefighter dead and another unaccounted for, officials said Wednesday.

Porterville Police Chief Eric Kroutil said the fire at the city’s library was reported about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday. The teens were seen running from the library shortly after the fire erupted, authorities said.

Fire Capt. Raymond Figueroa, 35, was killed, and firefighter Patrick Jones, 25, is missing, Porterville Fire Chief David LaPere said. Figueroa started his career with the city in 2007, and Jones has been with the department since 2017.

Tulare County Fire Capt. Joanne Bear said Jones was inside the building when he lost contact with his fellow firefighters.

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The teenage boys were booked into the Tulare County Juvenile Detention Facility on suspicion of of arson, manslaughter and conspiracy.

“Because this is an active investigation involving juveniles, no further information is being released at this time,” officials said.

Staffers called 911 after spotting flames in the children’s section of the library, which houses about 77,000 books, city librarian Vikki Cervantes told the Visalia Times Delta. The fire shot through the library’s roof, which later collapsed. More than 50 firefighters from several departments, including the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Fresno County Fire Department, responded to the blaze.

The library, located about 500 feet from the fire department, was built in 1953 and did not have a sprinkler system, Bear said.

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Just last month, members of the Porterville City Council and the Library and Literacy Commission met to discuss the need for a new library, the Porterville Recorder reported.

At that meeting, City Manager John Lollis said a new library would cost an estimated $33 million.


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