Two firefighters have been confirmed dead in a blaze that erupted Tuesday at a California public library, allegedly set by two 13-year-old boys. Now, controversy has emerged over the charges faced by the juveniles. Coverage:
- The firefighters: Capt. Ray Figueroa, 35, and Patrick Jones, 25, both of the Porterville Fire Department, entered the burning building, located just 500 feet from the fire station, around 4:15pm to check that no one was still inside, reports the Los Angeles Times.
- The mayday: "It was during the search that a mayday was initiated by the crew inside the fire," says Tulare County Fire Capt. Joanne Bear, per NBC News. Figueroa was pulled out of the building and later pronounced dead at a hospital. Jones' body was not recovered until after the blaze was contained early Wednesday.
- Arrests: Two 13-year-old boys seen fleeing from the blaze were arrested and were being held in a juvenile detention center. They face arson, manslaughter, and conspiracy charges, reports the AP. Because they are juveniles, they have not been identified.
- Anger: Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward has already fielded calls from angry residents "telling us what charges we should file" against the boys, per the Washington Post. A recent change in state law prohibits charging 13-year-olds as adults, he says, “even with the most serious charges of murder." And even in murder cases, juveniles are eligible for parole at 25. Ward is among the critics of those changes. “When you start passing laws that protect the accused more than victims, many of us have issues with that.” His view is countered in the story by an advocate for criminal justice reform, who points out the accused are "kids."
- No sprinklers: The 70-year-old library described as "the heart of the community" did not have a sprinkler system, reports ABC30. It's not yet clear whether the building will be destroyed or salvaged.
- Tributes: Jones' positive attitude was infectious," according to the department he joined in 2017. Figueroa, a 13-year veteran who served as a mentor to others, was known to live by the motto, "my men, the mission, then me."
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