Teen Sentenced for Porterville Library Fire

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.

6 thoughts on “Teen Sentenced for Porterville Library Fire

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  1. DA Tim Ward needs to go. His staff can’t even get justice for victims. The families of these firefighters should demand his resignation.

  2. There are those who would have tried these kids as adults even though they clearly are not. How many 13-year-olds actually function as a mature adult? While most can tell right from wrong they also are dealing with emotional and physical changes that accompany puberty. Their moods, stresses and peer problems shift minute by minute. Mood disorders are quite common around this age. They can make poor choices or decisions that make no sense. They often struggle to think about the consequences of their behavior BEFORE they act. It’s so easy to overlook that their brains are not fully developed. And these are the 13-year-olds that have stable homes, parent(s) who are engaged in parental participation and school activities. Take out home stability, engaged and enlightened parent(s), school participation, etc; life becomes a far greater crapshoot for them. If you think about it there is a common phrase that has been used to describe some younger teens…….. they have shit for brains. Some have remained emotionally stunted throughout their entire life. Anyone who is advocating for years behind prison walls for these kids has never had to deal with situations such as this on a personal level. Pray that you never do.

  3. People say DA Tim Ward is never at juvenile court. He picks one case that he thinks will make him look tough, makes one trip out, then brags about sitting with the families. His stunt accomplished nothing but reinforcing he’s a self promoting, out of tune, politician. God Bless the families and fallen heroes. They deserved better.

  4. This is why drug dealers have kids dealing on the street for them. Kids don’t suffer the same consequences that an adult would. These kids could not say they didn’t know it was wrong to light a fire in a building full of books. I assume the parents would have taught them at home that playing with fire is wrong. This judge should be recalled from the bench for excusing these kids from a punishment that was deserved. Lives of those public servants were lost, those men chose to help their community and this is the reward they get? They are heros for going in when they thought others were still in the building but this tragedy should have never happened. Maybe if we charged the parents for child neglect since they did not teach their children correctly at home!

  5. While I don’t advocate throwing the baby out with the bathwater mentality this Judge’s judicial judgement does comes across as on the lighter side when it comes to making a lasting impression on this youngster. Of course the devil is in the details, which wasn’t covered in much depth in this article. 100 hours equal 4 days of community service. That is unacceptable. Probation? How long? Until the age of 21 or what? How is restitution to be paid? In actual dollars or community work until paid in full? Will the parents be responsible for monies paid or will a percentage of the minor’s future earnings be attached until paid in full. Continued counseling after release from J.V.? Will counselor and sessions be monitored by a court appointed counselor to assure compliance? Will the court appointed counselor advise the court if minor isn’t responding to treatment? Appropriate punishment and rehabilitation should be the goal.

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