2 teens arrested in library fire that killed firefighter

National News

In this Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 photo, firemen battle a fire at the public library in Porterville, Calif. Two 13-year-old boys have been arrested for allegedly starting the blaze at a public library in central California that left a firefighter dead and another missing, officials said. (Charles Whisnand/The Porterville Recorder via AP)

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PORTERVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Two 13-year-old boys have been arrested on suspicion of starting a blaze at a public library in central California that left a firefighter dead and another missing, officials said.

Porterville Police Chief Eric Kroutil said Wednesday the teenagers were arrested Tuesday in the blaze at the Porterville Public Library that killed fire Capt. Raymond Figueroa, 35.

Firefighter Patrick Jones, 25, is still missing, said Porterville Fire Chief David LaPere.

Kroutil said the teenagers were seen running from the library shortly after the blaze started.

“Our investigation led us to two 13-year-old Porterville residents who have been determined to have started this fire,” Kroutil said.

The boys face arson, manslaughter and conspiracy charges, he said.Their names were not released because they are minors. It was not immediately known if they have attorneys who can speak on their behalf.

The blaze was reported at about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday at the library in Porterville, 50 miles (79 kilometers) north of Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley, fire officials said.

Staff called 911 when they noticed flames in the children’s section of the library, which has about 77,000 books, city librarian Vikki Cervantes told the Visalia Times Delta.

Flames shot through the library’s roof, which later collapsed. The library is located about a block from the fire department. The first arriving firefighters quickly called for more assistance, officials said.

The library was built in 1953 and did not have sprinklers, said Porterville Fire Department Capt. Joanne Bear said.

More than 50 state, county and city crews battled the stubborn blaze for hours.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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