Two 13-year-olds accused of starting a deadly fire that killed two firefighters at a Central California library have been charged with murder with special circumstances, according to KTLA sister station KSEE/KGPE in Fresno.
The charges in Tuesday’s fire that claimed the lives of Porterville Fire Capt. Raymond Figueroa, 35, and Firefighter Patrick Jones, 25, were announced Friday by the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office.
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,” she said. “And you couldn’t do that. You couldn’t be there to save him.”
Webb said texted Figueroa when she heard the library was on fire she. After an hour with no reply, she messaged him again. Both went unanswered.
Officials say 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 were blocked when 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,” Webb said. “He died a hero.”
Jones went missing while fighting the fire. Officials believe he might have gotten trapped inside.
The 25-year-old was recently engaged and excited for his upcoming wedding. His fiancee described him as the most genuine, kind-hearted and dedicated person.
A friend of Jones’ shared a statement, describing him as humble:
“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 the teenagers are also facing arson-related charges.
Their status as minors 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 criminal defense attorney Charles Magill.
The unidentified minors have both denied the charges against them and are scheduled to return to court March 11.