Demolition on Porterville library to start soon, allowing firefighters to return to Station 1

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Porterville continues to pay tribute to fallen firefighters Ray Figueroa and Patrick Jones, who died in last month's library fire.

City leaders are also starting a conversation about what's next for the library itself-an institution that preserved history, promoted learning, and served as a public gathering place for thousands of people in the South Valley.

City Manager John Lollis says the first step is to find a space for a temporary library-ideally in time for students' summer vacation.

"We have a number of city facilities that have been acquired that may play a role in some kind of interim service model," Lollis said. "That's really for the city council to consider and to establish its vision for the community. And so I would anticipate that beginning this month."

The library was fully insured, but Lollis says the city's forthcoming insurance claim is complicated.

They've brought on a third party advisor to help them navigate the process.

Meanwhile, after taking time off to mourn and attend the services of Jones and Figueroa, Porterville city firefighters came back on the job last Sunday.

They're still not able to occupy station one, adjacent to the library.

"The building's secure against the library facility, but in an abundance of caution we're right now consolidating calls out of our Station 2," Lollis said.

Demolition on the library should start by next week.

Crews will be able to return to Station 1 when that's done.

"They want to get back in their station, they want to respond out of there," Porterville Fire Chief Dave LaPere said.

LaPere says all firefighters went through a debriefing and will continue to receive peer support from firefighters in the city of Fresno, Kern County, and Contra Costa County.

"All the chiefs, all their command staff have been just helping us in every way," LaPere said. "And I just can't tell you how humbling it's been. And we're still working through it and it is a process."

Even prior to last month, the city was recruiting for new firefighters and a fire captain.

But tragically, the incident at the library created more vacancies, and they'll be looking to fill those in the weeks ahead.

The Tulare County Fire Department says they have finished their investigation into the cause of the fire.

At this time, they are only saying that it was intentionally set.

The two teens accused of setting it have been charged with murder.
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