TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KGPE) – Inside the Juvenile Courthouse in Tulare County, two teens stood in front of the presiding judge, facing murder and arson charges for setting the Porterville Library fire on fire, killing two firefighters.
On February 18th, 2020, the inferno claimed the lives of Porterville Fire Captain Raymond Figueroa, and Firefighter Patrick Jones.
Wednesday, the two 15-year-old boys appeared in court, a day the Jones and Figueroa families have been waiting for anxiously for two years.
The argument in the courtroom for day one was whether the fire was malicious or reckless.
“We do have heavy smoke coming out of the front of the library,” said first responders over scanner traffic.
February 18th, 2020, a day the tight-knit community of Porterville will never forget as orange flames and black smoke engulfed the town’s beloved library. The fire grew quickly, swallowing up books and claiming the lives of Fire Captain Raymond Figueroa, and Firefighter Patrick Jones.
“Mayday, Mayday, channel one running low on air,” were likely the last words Figueroa said, according to scanner traffic.
Earlier that day, Raymond called his father Ramon to ask him out to breakfast the next day.
“I told him ‘okay,’ but that never happened, because of the fire,” said Ramon.
Over two years later, two 15-year-old boys accused of lighting the fire stood before the judge as their trial for murder and arson began.
Prosecutor John Sliney says evidence will show the teens are guilty of arson and murder.
“The two minors went to Porterville Library willfully and maliciously lit the fire,” he said.
The defense, however, sees it differently.
“You’ll hear a lot of evidence, but the courtroom will find what the minors engaged in was reckless, nowhere near malicious,” said Richard Alvarez, the defense attorney for the teenage boys.
One by one, witnesses were called to the stand. One man who was inside the library when the fire broke out, heard footsteps and then saw fire in the children’s play area. He says he used stuffed animals and a fire extinguisher to fight the blaze, but soon it grew out of control.
“At that point, I knew I had lost. I threw the fire extinguisher at the monster,” said the witness.
A female witness did not want to appear on camera but said she saw two boys laughing and pushing each other before running out of the library.
The prosecution then called a classmate of the suspects. He identified the two teens as the juveniles in the courtroom.
As day one of the trial came to a close, Figueroa prepares for the long trail ahead.
“I just want the facts to come out, so at least we know there will be a good possibility that there will be justice coming out of this trial. I just want facts,” he said.
The trial picks up Thursday after day one. The prosecution is saying that body camera video will be shown of the fire.