Hundreds attend funeral of fire captain killed in library fire

Porterville Fire Capt. Ramon "Ray" Figueroa is remembered as a dedicated professional, a great leader and an adoring father

Stacey Shepard
The Bakersfield Californian

DELANO, Calif. — Hundreds of people, including uniformed firefighters and police, turned out Tuesday to attend funeral services for Porterville Fire Capt. Ramon "Ray" Figueroa, who died in the line of duty fighting the Porterville library fire last week.

There was standing room-only inside St. Mary of the Miraculous Medal Church and many people waited in an overflow area outside or waited in front of the church. As the service ended, an honor guard assembled and saluted as Figueroa's flag-draped casket was brought out from the church, followed by his family. Emergency vehicles from various neighboring agencies crowded the streets and three city of Porterville buses were waiting to transport family and fellow firefighters to the gravesite, where a burial with full honors was held.

Figueroa, 35, leaves behind two young children, his parents, siblings and nieces and nephews, according to an obituary posted on the Porterville Fire Department's Facebook page. Relatives said his son is 3 and his daughter is 6. A fellow firefighter, Patrick Jones, 25, also perished in the blaze.

Figueroa grew up in Delano, graduated from Delano High School and worked for the city of Porterville Fire Department for the past 13 years. He was also called Raymond by many, which is the English version of his name.

He was described by those who knew him as a dedicated professional and leader. His obituary said he commonly would say: “My men, the mission, then me.”

That's exactly how Samantha Rafanan remembered Figueroa. The two met when she started working as a secretary for the fire department and Rafanan and her husband, Ted, soon became like a second family to Figueroa and his young family. Figueroa's kids referred to them as their grandparents, they drove the kids to school on many days and Rafanan said she was at the hospital when Figueroa's son was born.

"Ray was all about his guys," Rafanan said, recalling Figueroa's devotion to his fellow firefighters.

"He didn't leave Patrick," she said, tearing up when referring to Jones, the other firefighter who died. "He didn't leave him."

Dozens of firefighters and police came from neighboring agencies to attend the service, including Bakersfield, Kern County, Mojave Air and Space Port, Clovis, Fresno, Tulare County and Tule River. Among the attendees exiting the church were Dolores Huerta and her son Emilio Huerta, who is a candidate for the Kern County Supervisor's District that includes Delano, Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer and former Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin.

On his father's side, Figueroa has a large, extended family and many traveled from around the state to attend the funeral, relatives said.

Joe Nunez, who is a cousin of Figueroa's father, also named Ramon Figueroa, said the elder Figueroa was the former police chief of the Lindsey Police Department. The younger Figueroa went into the fire service because he wanted to follow in his dad's footstep's by serving the public. Nunez said father and son were close, and he recalled how the two made trips to visit him over the years, just as the elder Figueroa did with his own father.

"We're all a close-knit family," he said.

Figueroa's family released a statement over the weekend saying he was an adoring father, an adventurous outdoorsman and was proud of his faith.

The statement read: "Although we are heartbroken, we find comfort knowing he died doing what he loved in the accompaniment of a fellow brother (his Jonesy). We are so proud of all he accomplished and he will always be our hero."

Following the church service, a graveside ceremony was held. At the cemetery entrance, an enormous American flag hung from the crossed ladders of a Porterville and Kern County fire engine. A bugler played taps, a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace," the flag covering the casket was folded and given to Figueroa's mother and a flock of white doves was released.

"This is what we do, this is our chosen profession, this is the tradition of the firefighter," said a firefighter in dress uniform, addressing the crowd, just before a bell was rung to signify a firefighter's final return from duty.


©2020 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.)


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