US One firefighter dead, another missing in blaze at California library

07:30  19 february  2020
07:30  19 february  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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VISALIA, Calif. – One firefighter was killed Tuesday in a large blaze that consumed the library in Porterville, authorities say.

a group of people standing around a fire truck: A © Joshua Yeager A "large fire" consumed the Porterville Library Tuesday evening.

Another firefighter remains "unaccounted for," Tulare County Fire Chief Charlie Norman said as he fought back tears.

The names of the firefighters have not been released. Both work for the city of Porterville, Norman said.

"When it's safe to operate we will be back in the building," he said. "Hopefully, we'll find that firefighter.”

The fire was reported by employees around 4 p.m. Fire crews from Tulare County and Porterville responded and found the library was ablaze, just steps from Porterville’s City Hall. The 1953 building was deemed historic by the city. There were no sprinklers inside.

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Smoke and flames could be seen from miles away.

A library full of books presents challenges for first responders, Norman said.

“Typical a library of this size and magnitude has a significant fuel load,” Norman said

a night time view of a city street: Porterville Library caught fire on Tuesday, February 18, 2020.© Joshua Yeager Porterville Library caught fire on Tuesday, February 18, 2020.

Witnesses said there was heavy black smoke and "fireballs" shooting from the windows as firefighters doused the flames from all angles.

Some residents said they feared it would be a "total loss."

"We love the library, this is so unbelievable to watch," said Jenny Forsythe, who said people were lining the streets to watch firefighters battle the blaze. "My kids are going to be devastated."

The fire raged for hours and by 8:15 p.m. still had not been fully extinguished. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Porterville is about 30 miles southeast of Visalia and 150 miles north of Los Angeles.

This article originally appeared on Visalia Times-Delta: One firefighter dead, another missing in blaze at California library

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