DELANO, California (KGPE) – Authorities are looking for whoever stole the truck belonging to the father of fallen Porterville Fire Captain Ray Figueroa with two custom-made remembrance shields inside – one for each of the fallen firefighters.
The truck was recovered by Tulare County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday morning. Deputies say the vehicle had been abandoned, stripped, and the shields inside discarded a short distance away.
Capt. Ray Figueroa and Firefighter Patrick Jones both died battling the Porterville Library fire in February.
Capt. Figueroa’s father, Ramon Figuera, said he went to the Home Depot in Delano Friday morning for a quick errand but came out to find his truck gone. Not only did thieves leave him without a ride, but also a lost opportunity to pass the truck down to his grandson, a wish from his late son.
“One of the times we were out having lunch he asked me and said don’t ever sell the pick up because I want to get it for Pheonix, and I told him I’ll hold onto it, but now that’s not going to happen,” said Figueroa.
Ramon Figuera says the two custom-made shields, honoring his son and Firefighter Patrick Jones, were going to be donated to the Porterville Fire Department’s training facility.
“The shields were going to be part of his legacy to make sure he isn’t forgotten because I think that’s what he would have wanted,” said Figueroa.
Investigators say it appears the thieves used the shields to dig the truck out of mud, damaging them beyond repair.
“The optimistic part of me likes to believe they had no idea what they had taken within the vehicle, I really don’t believe anyone could be that cold-blooded and heartless,” said Delano Police Chief Robert Nevarez.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Deputies Association is now vowing to pay for new shields and give them to Figueroa.
”It shows the tightness between all the first responders,” said Figueroa.
Tulare County Sheriff’s Office continues to look for those responsible for the theft.