Porterville firefighters died trying to save others inside burning library

ByABC30.com staff KFSN logo
Friday, February 21, 2020
Porterville firefighters died trying to save others inside burning library
Fire Capt. Raymond Figueroa, 35, and firefighter Patrick Jones, 25, were the first to arrive at the burning Porterville library and went inside to search for anyone who was trapped

PORTERVILLE, Calif. -- It was a somber dawn in Porterville as the flag-draped body of 25-year-old Patrick Jones was brought out of the building where he answered his last call for service.

On Thursday new details were revealed about the fallen firefighters, who were killed in a massive fire at the Porterville city library on Tuesday afternoon.

They were on Engine 71, the first crew to arrive at the scene.

Of the three firefighters who were on that truck, only one survived.

Two died trying to rescue others.

"The focus was to ensure that they had a primary search and a primary clear that all of the citizens had made an exit," said Captain Joanne Bear of the Tulare County Fire Department.

It turned out, everyone who was in the library when the fire started made it out.

But firefighters searching inside the building gave a May Day call and were never heard from again. Figueroa was found by the rapid intervention team.

He died after being rushed to a local hospital.

RELATED: Family and friends remember Fire Capt. Raymond Figueroa killed in Porterville library fire

But it took much more to find and recover Jones.

"We had resources from LA City and LA County with their HR dogs," said CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Jeremiah Wittwer. "We utilized them last night and then we came in for a secondary search this morning."

Late on Wednesday night, crews found his remains after a long and challenging search.

WATCH: Authorities provide updates on deadly Porterville fire investigation

A procession escorted Jones' body to the Tulare County Coroner's Office Tulare early Thursday morning. The motorcade included firefighters and law enforcement from across the Valley.

WATCH: Fallen firefighter Patrick Jones arrives at Tulare Co. Coroner's Office

While the investigation into the arson continues, the police chief said the young age of the suspects is presenting challenges. State law prohibits officers from even interviewing the 13-year-olds who they believe intentionally set the blaze.

"So once we determine that they were suspects in the crime, there were no more questions for the juveniles, we have to rely on other investigative means, you know, to confirm their involvement," said Porterville Police Chief Eric Kroutil.

The police chief confirmed evidence has been collected from the suspects and search warrants have been served. He said due to the suspects' ages, they will not be tried as adults in a criminal court.

RELATED: Deadly Porterville fire: Officials say library had no sprinkler system

Jones started his career as a full-time firefighter with Porterville Fire in 2017.

"Patrick was quick to make friends with everyone in the department and known for always having a smile on his face. Patrick was always quick to help any of his fellow brothers or sisters on or off duty," fire officials wrote on social media.

Jones had just started his training to become an Acting Engineer.

On Thursday morning, the outpouring of love from the community continued. Food deliveries remained constant- to feed the fire crews sifting through the debris. Flowers were added all day to a growing memorial to comfort the broken hearts of Porterville firefighters.

The Porterville fire station is being manned by other agencies right now - to allow firefighters to mourn. On Thursday, the Clovis Fire Department answered all 911 calls for service.

A link has been provided if you wish to donate to help the families of both fallen firefighters. Click here to donate.