Teen sentenced to six months in custody for Porterville library fire

Judge Hugo Loza sentences 15-year-old to six months in juvenile custody, requires extensive counseling and therapy

VISALIA – Several years after the Porterville library fire, where two firemen lost their lives, one minor was charged with arson and sentenced to six months in juvenile custody and extensive counseling.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, on Sept. 28, judge Hugo Loza sentenced the 15-year-old minor to up to six months in juvenile custody for his role in the 2020 fire that destroyed the Porterville Library and claimed the lives of fire captain Raymond Figueroa and firefighter Patrick Jones. After the conclusion of the hearing, the minor was taken into custody to begin his sentence.

“It was an honor to sit alongside the families this morning. They, like their sons, exemplified incredible bravery,” District Attorney Tim Ward said. “Though many would agree the results of [the] 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.” 

As part of the juvenile’s 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.

Witnesses testified that on the afternoon of Feb. 18, 2020, two minors, who were both 13- years-old at the time, were present in the children’s reading area of the library. 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 Figueroa and firefighter 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 Feb. 21, 2020, the minors were charged with murder and arson. Due to the age of the minors, California law forbids them from being tried as adults. At trial beginning on Aug. 17, 2022, prosecutors began presenting evidence.

On Aug. 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.

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