Two 13-year-old boys have been arrested in connection with a deadly fire at a public library in Central California that left one firefighter dead and another unaccounted for, officials said Wednesday.
Porterville Police Chief Eric Kroutil said the fire at the city's public library was reported about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday. The teens were seen running from the library shortly after the fire erupted, authorities said.
Fire Capt. Raymond Figueroa, 35, was killed, and firefighter Patrick Jones, 25, has not been seen since battling the blaze, Porterville Fire Chief David LaPere said. Figueroa started his career with the city in 2007, and Jones has been with the department since 2017.
Tulare County Fire Capt. Joanne Bear said that Jones was reported as having been inside the building.
The teenage boys were booked into Tulare County Juvenile Detention on suspicion of arson, manslaughter and conspiracy.
"Because this is an active investigation involving juveniles, no further information is being released at this time," officials said.
Staff called 911 after spotting flames in the children's section of the library, which houses about 77,000 books, city librarian Vikki Cervantes told the Visalia Times Delta. The fire shot through the library's roof, which later collapsed. More than 50 firefighters from several departments, including the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Fresno County Fire, responded to the blaze.
The library, located about 50 miles north of Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley and situated about 500 feet from the local fire department, was built in 1953 and did not have a sprinkler system, Bear said.
About a month ago, local leaders held a special joint meeting of the Porterville City Council and the Library and Literacy Commission to discuss the need for a new library, the Porterville Recorder reported.
At that meeting, Porterville Mayor Martha Flores asked how much the library's operating costs were, the newspaper reported. City Manager John Lollis said the cost was about $1.25 million. A new library would cost an estimated $33 million, he said.
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