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Updated Aug 7, 2013 - 3:29 pm

Legislation planned on Yarnell hotshots’ benefits

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Some of the firefighters killed in an Arizona wildfire
were classified as seasonal employees with the city of Prescott, so their
families don’t qualify for full survivors’ benefits.

An Arizona legislative leader wants to change that. The family of one of the
fallen firefighters also has launched an online petition to secure the health
and lifetime benefits they say he deserved.

House Speaker Andy Tobin is drafting retroactive legislation to provide regular
benefits to not only the seasonal Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in the June
30 wildfire near Yarnell, but to any responder who dies on state lands, the
Daily Courier reported.

“To be putting your life on the line for part-time survivor benefits is not
what I consider appropriate when people are defending the citizens of Arizona,
particularly on state land,” Tobin said.

Another bill planned by Tobin would have the state cover the costs of the
death-related retirement benefits provided by Prescott. Tobin said he wants to
introduce the bills in the regular legislative session that starts in January.

The city of Prescott has said it cannot legally reclassify 13 of the Granite
Mountain Hotshots as full-time employees so their families can receive
additional benefits. The six others who died after the fire cut off their escape
route were permanent employees.

Juliann Ashcraft has been pressing the city to reclassify her husband, Andrew
Ashcraft, as a full-time employee particularly because he worked full-time hours
and received pay similar to other full-time employees. The couple had four

“I will do anything that I can to fight for the other 13 men that they’re
classifying as seasonal because they have lives and families, and they gave the
ultimate sacrifice for our community,” she said Wednesday at a news conference
in Prescott. “And they’re not being treated fairly.”

Andrew Ashcraft’s father has gathered more than 3,000 signatures in an online
petition seeking lifetime health benefits for the seasonal employees.

“You cannot imagine what it’s like to lose a child,” he said in a news
release Wednesday. “But to watch my son’s family struggle to get the benefits
they deserve is just maddening.”


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