Father of fallen Porterville fire alleges department has long history of protocol issues

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PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KSEE) — Less than 12 hours after a report pointed to several flaws in the response of the Porterville Fire Department to the Porterville Public Library Fire, a father of one of the fallen firefighters criticizing the findings.

“If you are going to be transparent, be 100%,” said Ray Figueroa’s father Ramon. “Don’t pick what you want to be transparent about and what you don’t. The department is deflecting blame on their doings. The department barely scratches the history of issues the department has taken part in.”

On Friday an investigative report examining the Porterville Public Library Fire that killed two firefighters found that the Porterville Fire Department did not follow several protocols.

On Feb. 18, 2020, Captain Ray Figueroa and Firefighter Patrick Jones died while fighting the inferno that engulfed the public library.

The 138-page Serious Accident Review Team (SART) report found that several factors led to the tragedy including lack of training/communications, not following procedures, and low staffing.

The report also stated that Figueroa did not switch to the correct radio channel and Figueroa and Jones did not bring in a water hose while working to rescue a woman who was believed to be trapped on the second floor.

“These are decisions that have to be made rapidly with limited information,” said SART Chair Mike Kraus. “So none of that should take away from the dedication and bravery of Capt. Figueroa and Firefighter Patrick Jones.”

The woman turned out to not be in the building.

One of the biggest areas for improvement from the department was communication.

Chief David LaPere said he plans to ramp up training going forward. LaPere is grateful to the two men for giving the ultimate sacrifice but believes lessons can be learned not only for the Porterville Fire Department but for other departments.

“I think there is an old adage that is, you don’t rise to the occasion you sink to the level of your training and that is so true,” said Chief LaPere.

The report stated this led to miscommunication between the Porterville Police Department, dispatch, and fire crews especially when relaying the information that the building was safely evacuated.

The investigative team said the findings in the report aren’t uncommon for an incident like this one. Investigators said the fire was started intentionally. Two minors face charges for arson and murder relating to the incident.

However, Ramon alleges there are more problems that need to be addressed like defective equipment including breathing masks and radio batteries.

“It is our goal that this never happens to another family even if it means we have to disclose factual negligence of the department,” said Ramon.

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July 23 2021 05:30 pm

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