'Lives are torn apart': Porterville residents get first look at library fire aftermath

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KFSN) -- On Friday, for the first time, Porterville residents got an up-close look at what's left of the Porterville Library, after a fire destroyed tore through it on Tuesday and claimed the lives of two firefighters.

Streets in the area finally opened back up to the public once more and many stopped by the library to see firsthand what remains.

Many stood in front of it quietly while others shed tears.

On Friday, the fire department announced firefighters won't be back until Wednesday.

"There is a lot of grief," said Fire Chief David Lapere. "We are trying to head off post-traumatic stress disorder with them and with myself and we are working on things."

RELATED: Porterville firefighters died trying to save others inside burning library

Piles of rubble, burnt bookshelves, and metal beams are all that remain inside the charred walls.

"It is bad inside, things are torn apart, lives are torn apart," said Porterville resident Janice Thornton.

Flames ravaged the building, destroying many priceless items, including one-of-a-kind books on the history of Porterville and the surrounding areas.

RELATED: Tulare County loses not just 2 lives, but also a part of its history

More than 70 of those books were written by one of the town's historians, Jeff Edwards.

"Everything that we had burned up in the fire. We just lost a lot of history," said Edwards.

He owns store Edwards Antiques, just a couple of blocks away from the library.

He's been there for years and like the library, his building also doesn't have a sprinkler system.

He likes the idea of having an extra layer of defense in his shop but says it might be too expensive.

"I think on the buildings like these, it would be good if they could afford to put them in, but a lot of times those sprinkler systems cost as much as the building is worth," said Edwards.

As the city continues to grieve, many are hopeful the library will be rebuilt.
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