A press release from the Office of the Tulare County District Attorney
Today in Tulare County Juvenile Court, Judge Hugo Loza sentenced a 15-year-old minor for his role in the 2020 fire that destroyed the Porterville Library and claimed the lives of two firefighters.
Witnesses testified that on the afternoon of February 18, 2020, two minors, who were both 13- years-old at the time, were present in the children’s reading area. Evidence showed that one minor said he lit a piece of paper on fire and handed it to the other minor. Video evidence showed the minors fled together as the fire quickly spread to stuffed animals, decorations, and other children’s items. As firefighters fought the blaze, Captain Raymond Figueroa and Firefighter Patrick Jones died while engaged in firefighting operations.
The investigation uncovered that upon being first contacted by law enforcement, the minors denied being at the library when the fire started. After confronted with video evidence, the teens were arrested and placed inside a police vehicle where the two were recorded discussing events from when they were in the library together. On February 21, 2020, the minors were charged with murder and arson. Due to the age of the minors, California law forbid them from being tried as adults. At trial beginning on August 17, 2022, prosecutors began presenting evidence.
On August 22, 2022, acting as both judge and jury for the juvenile proceeding, the court dismissed the murder charges, but found true the arson charges against only one of the minors. Today, the court sentenced the minor to up to six months in juvenile custody. As part of his in custody program, he will be required to undergo extensive counseling and therapy. Upon his release, the court ordered continued counseling as well as probation, restitution, 100 hours of community service, a curfew, and submission of DNA. He cannot possess lighters, matches, or any ignition device.
“It was an honor to sit alongside the families this morning. They, like their sons, exemplified incredible bravery,” said District Attorney Tim Ward. “Though many would agree the results of today’s hearing are less than satisfactory, the rightful focus on Captain Figueroa’s and Firefighter Jones’ heroic acts will be the lasting legacy of this tragedy.” After the conclusion of the hearing, the minor was taken into custody to begin his sentence.