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Arizona Legislature to hear bill Tuesday on hotshot benefits

PHOENIX — A hearing has been set for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Capitol regarding House Speaker Andy Tobin’s bill to help the families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who were killed in June during the Yarnell Hill Fire.

The hearing will consider upping the benefits of 13 seasonal hotshots to match those of six full-time hotshots — all of which were killed — and to make ensure all seasonal hotshots receive the equivalent of full-time benefits.

“They (Granite Mountain seasonal hotshots) were not covered under many of our laws including pension and survival benefits,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Ruben Gallego. “We are trying to find a way to get them included. If we’re going to be putting men and women in harm’s way and expecting them to have the same level of professionalism as our fulltime firefighters and hotshots then we need to pay them and give the full benefits to them and their families as full timers. It’s not fair.”

Gallego serves on the House Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee that will hear Tobin’s bill, which seeks to provide Yarnell with the money needed to repair infrastructure damaged in the fire, including broken water lines that crushed under the weight of heavy fire equipment. Gallego said that would cost Arizona about $2 million.

“We should do this right away and quit messing around with this,” adding that Arizona has about $500,000 in the fund.

Gallego said the final decision that affects Yarnell and the families of the hotshots may have to wait until lawmakers go back into session in January, but there is the possibility of a special session being called.

“It this isn’t done correctly we could get sued and have the money taken away,” he said. “We need to do this in a proper manner so we don’t cause more emotional pain.”