Register | Forgot Your Password? | Close

PHOENIX -- House Speaker Andy Tobin urged a legislative committee Tuesday to quickly come up with a plan to pay full survivor and other benefits to the 13 part-time firefighters who were among 19 killed in the Yarnell Hill wildfire.

Tobin testified that the state should help Yarnell rebuild and pay costs Prescott is facing and craft it quickly. If the Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee can craft such a plan he hopes Gov. Jan Brewer can call a special legislative session.

The full cost of the plan isn't yet known, but Prescott alone faces a $5.2 million payment to the state's public safety retirement system for the payouts for six full-time members covered by the system. Other costs include $6 million for other agency aid to fight the fire, and up to $20 million to rebuild Yarnell's aging water system, which was damaged by heavy fire trucks.

The survivors of full-time members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots will continue to receive their salaries from the public safety retirement system, while part-time members will receive only a small percentage based on their contributions to the regular state retirement system. The regular state retirement only paid out about $86,000 in total benefits to the survivors, officials said.

The part-timers also didn't get health benefits and their survivors don't qualify now.

Rep. Justin Pierce, who chairs the committee, said Tuesday's meeting is the first of several which will delve into the issue and try to develop a plan. He and other members of the committee made it clear they plan to help the families of the firefighters.

The Yarnell Hill fire was sparked by lightning June 28, and trapped Prescott's Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30 as it barreled toward Yarnell. The fire burned 13 square miles of brush and consumed more than 100 homes before it was controlled July 12.

Tobin said he was concerned that providing the benefits retroactively could trigger the state's Constitutional ban on gifts of public funds, but one way around that might be to allow taxpayers to voluntarily contribute to a fund.

``If Arizona says `yes we have responsibility on state land' I find it difficult to not somehow go back to the beneficiaries on June 30,'' he said. ``The very reason we're having this conversation is because of what happened on June 30.''

Associated Press,

share this story:
Attention KTAR.com Comment Users: We have recently changed our comments boards.
We would like you to be part of the conversation and The Voice of Arizona by logging in with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing KTAR (Arizona Sports) account members will need to create a Disqus account or use one of the aforementioned social media logins. Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus

World Class Arizona

  • Dignity Health

    World Class People. World Class Company. Excellent care, delivered with compassion, for all in need.
  • CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company

    SCF Arizona has a new name. They are now CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company.
  • Taylor Morrison

    World Class People. World Class Company. We are a national home builder committed to building homes inspired by you.
  • Go Daddy

    World Class People. World Class Company. Go Daddy is a Fortune 100 "Best Companies to Work For."
  • Avnet

    World Class People. World Class Company. Here's information on a Fortune 500 company from Arizona.

Voice For A Better Arizona

  • Working For Arizona

    The business and economics of Arizona at the start of 2014 and looking forward.
  • Arizonans In Need

    Putting a focus on charities and organizations who provide help and/or need your help to fulfill their missions.
close

Share: