“Never.”

That was the response of Porterville Fire Chief Dave LaPere at a press conference held on Thursday at City Hall when asked if there was any consideration on giving up on the search for firefighter Patrick Jones.

Yes, these heroes never gave up. And because they never gave up, another Porterville hero will be put to rest with the full honors he deserves.

Patrick Jones was found in what was left of the Porterville Public Library at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. Jones was one of two firefighters who died fighting the blaze that virtually destroyed the library on Tuesday.

Jones, 25, had been with the Porterville Fire Department since 2017. The other firefighter who died was Captain Raymond Figueroa, 35, who had been with the Porterville Fire Department since 2007.

As a procession of firefighters and police officers that took Figueroa from Porterville to Tulare to the Tulare County Coroner’s office was held on Tuesday, the same procession was held on Thursday for Jones.

Tulare County Fire Captain Joanne Bear said Figueroa and Jones entered the building to search for anyone who may have still been in the building as it was unconfirmed everyone had exited. Figueroa was pulled out of the library by several firefighters.

Life-saving measures were performed on Figueroa in front of the library. He was transported to Sierra View Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

As far as the search for Jones, LaPere said “the agencies doing the searching” could have stopped “due to darkness but they decided to push through until they found him.”

Firefighters and Search and Rescue crews worked through the night on Wednesday to find Jones. They located the area where he was last seen.

Two backhoes were used to clear an enormous amount of heavy debris and a crane was also used to remove heavy debris. At least two dogs were used in the effort including one from a Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue Unit.

Those who went into the area where Jones was couldn’t find him. But a dog kept going in indicating Jones was there.

And they eventually found him.

LaPere listed all of the numerous agencies who helped with the effort in battling the fire: Tulare County Fire, Cal Fire, Visalia Fire Department, Hanford Fire Department, Clovis Fire Department, Los Angeles City and County Fire Departments and Fresno City and County Fire Departments. 

He also listed Porterville Police, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol, emergency medical services from Imperial Ambulance and air medical services.

“The outpouring of support we have received has been immeasurable,” LaPerew said.

Porterville City Manager said he echoed LaPere’s comments, also stating the suwpport from Porterville has been overwhelming.

“Just the magnanimous support that we received from agencies up and down the state of California,” Lollis said. “There’s just been an outpouring of support from our community.”

Lollis noted someone has offered their building to be used as a temporary library site and another person offered to donate $10,000. Those wishing to make donations should go to the Tulare County Deputy Sheriff’s Association website tcdsa.net and click on the City of Porterville Fire emblem.

Porterville City Hall has remained closed. But a public event will be held today at Centennial Park for those to express their sentiments and information will also be provided on how the community can help going forward.

Porterville College will also hold a moment of silence today and plans to hold an event honoring the firefighters in the near future.

LaPere said the entire Porterville Fire Department will stand down until at least 8 a.m. Saturday. He said a meeting would be held today to evaluate the status and mental health of his firefighters. Other agencies are filling in for the Porterville Fire Department in the meantime.

Two 13-year-old juveniles have been booked on charges of conspiracy, arson and manslaughter. Due to California state law they can’t be tried as adults.

Porterville Police Chief Eric Kroutl said the two juveniles were seen fleeing from the library at the time of the fire and it was determined they intentionally set the fire. Kroutl said also under state law the juveniles can’t be questioned during the investigation. He also said the maximum sentence they could receive is until the age of 25.

Porterville Mayor Martha Flores called Tuesday’s fire “tragic, horrific and devastating.” She said “our prayers continue for the healing of our community” and the community will be resilient.

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered flags at the State Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

“On behalf of all Californians, Jennifer and I extend our sincere condolences to the Porterville Fire Department and the Porterville community for the tragic loss of two of their finest firefighters, Captain Raymond Figueroa and Firefighter Patrick Jones. To their family, friends and colleagues, we stand with you during this difficult time, and honor Captain Figueroa and Firefighter Jones for their bravery, service and sacrifice,” Newsom said.

 

 

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