Updated Aug 7, 2013 - 9:54 am
Granite Mountain widow fights with Prescott for benefits
PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Some of the firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire were only seasonal Prescott city employees so their families don't qualify for full survivors' benefits, which has pushed some family members to go public with the dispute.
They have a legislative leader on their side. House Speaker Andy Tobin said he's drafting retroactive legislation to provide regular benefits to any responder who dies on state lands, such as where the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died on June 30.
The Daily Courier reported the new legislation would qualify the survivors of the 13 deceased Hotshots for benefits such as health care.
At a press conference Wednesday morning, Juliann Ashcraft, the widow of hotshot member Andrew Ashcraft, displayed flashes of anger, disappointment, sadness and puzzlement at the situation.
"(Andrew) was a full-time employee. He worked full-time hours. He had a full-time responsibility. He had a full-time salary," she said. "There is no way that I can fathom how the city is justifying him as seasonal or part-time."
"I've been shocked at how the city officials have treated my family ... and saddened that it's gone throughout the other 19 as well.
"It's sad that I have to even stand here today and fight for what my husband already earned. ... It is a terrible tragedy and the bigger tragedy is in the fact that the people that can make it right aren't making it right."
She also praised Amanda Marsh, widow of crew leader Eric Marsh, for speaking up at a city council study session, which is focused on one topic. The topic of Tuesday's session was the replacement of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
No formal actions are taken during a workshop or study session, which are open to the public.
Another bill planned by Tobin would have the state cover the costs of the death-related retirement benefits provided by Prescott.
Tobin said the seasonal firefighters' deaths are a wake-up call because use of seasonal and part-time employees is increasingly common.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.