VISALIA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Two 13-year-olds accused of starting a deadly fire at a library in Northern California have been charged with murder with special circumstances, according to the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office.
Tuesday’s fire claimed the lives of Porterville Fire Captain Raymond Figueroa, 35, and Firefighter Patrick Jones, 25.
Mistie Webb told KGPE Wednesday she was heartbroken to hear her friend Figueroa passed away.
“You just wish you could have been there. Bring him out of the fire in his time of need. And you couldn’t do that. You couldn’t be there to save him.”
When Webb heard that the library was on fire she texted Figueroa. After an hour with no reply, she texted him again. Both texts were unanswered.
Officials said Figueroa was stuck inside the burning building after he went in to make sure everyone made it out safely. Rescuers tried to go back inside but couldn’t after the roof collapsed.
Webb described her friend as a happy and loving man, who constantly put others’ needs above his own. He is survived by his family, including two young children.
“He will always be loved and in our hearts. He died a hero,” said Webb.
Patrick Jones went missing while fighting the fire. Officials believe the 25-year-old might have gotten trapped inside.
Jones recently got engaged and was excited for his upcoming wedding. His fiancé would not go on camera but described him as the most genuine, kind-hearted and dedicated person.
Jones’s friend also sent a statement, describing him as a humble guy:
“He would drop anything he was doing to be there for somebody. He loved being a fireman. I think mostly because of how much that job required helping people.”
Police arrested the two teens after they were seen running from the fire, authorities said. In a statement Friday, the DA’s office said that the teenagers are also facing arson-related charges.
New California state laws will impact the punishment the two teens may face.
“Juveniles that are 13 and 14 years old, legally cannot be tried in a criminal court,” Porterville Police Chief Eric Kroutil said. “They’ll still face criminal charges, but in a juvenile court.”
If found guilty and sentenced, they can only be held until they turn 26, according to Fresno criminal defense attorney Charles Magill.
The unidentified minors have both denied the charges against them and are scheduled to return to juvenile court on March 11.