PORTERVILLE, California (KSEE) – As the investigation gets underway, those closest people to the two firefighters who fell victim to Tuesday’s library fire in Porterville say they were both selfless people who would always put the safety of others ahead of their own.
Porterville firefighter Raymond Figueroa, 35, died in the fire and fellow Porterville firefighter Patrick Jones, 25, is still missing. Two teenagers were arrested in connection with the library fire.
Mistie Webb says 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. And you couldn’t do that. You couldn’t be there to save him.”
When Webb heard that the library was on fire she texted Figueroa. After an hour with no reply, she texted him again. Both texts were 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 couldn’t after the roof collapsed.
Webb described her friend as a happy and loving man, who constantly put other’s needs above his own. He is survived by his family, including two young children.
“He will always be loved and in our hearts. He died a hero,” said Webb.
Patrick Jones went missing while fighting the fire. Officials believe the 25-year-old might have gotten trapped inside.
Jones recently got engaged and was excited for his upcoming wedding. His fiancé would not go on camera but described him as the most genuine, kind-hearted and dedicated person.
Jones’s friend also sent a statement, describing him as a humble guy.
“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.”
Crowds gathered outside the library in Porterville to watch the final hours of the search for missing firefighter Patrick Jones.
Just after 11 p.m. the Porterville Fire Department announced they found the body of Jones inside the building. In a Facebook post, they said Jones went missing in the early stages of the incident.
There’s a growing memorial outside the Porterville Fire Department where community members have laid flowers, candles, and handwritten notes mourning the loss of the two firefighters killed in the Porterville Library fire Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s so sad it burned down and we lost two firefighters. They risk their lives everyday,” said Emily Graciano.
Capt. Raymond Figueroa also died fighting the fire. He had been with the fire department since 2007 and leaves behind two young kids. According to the department, Patrick Jones was just starting his firefighting career, joining the department in 2017.
On Wednesday, the community remembered time spent in the library. From their many children and youth programs, to offering a quiet place for people to read.
“I started going there when I wanted to relax, when I was having a downfall in my life, basically,” said Porterville resident Edgar German.
The fire remains under investigation.
The Tulare County Deputies Sherriff’s Association office has created a donation page.
The donations will benefit the Porterville Fire Department and the families of the firefighters impacted by the Porterville Library Fire.