Fallen hotshot's widow speaks in Prescott, asks for benefits - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Fallen hotshot's widow speaks in Prescott, asks for benefits

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Juliann Ashcraft Juliann Ashcraft
PRESCOTT, Ariz. -

The widow of one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire wants her family to receive benefits that are given to loved ones of full-time firefighters.

But, the City of Prescott says he wasn't full-time and at this point in time, they're denying his family those benefits.

Andrew Ashcraft was a husband and a father of four.

His widow, Juliann, went before cameras Wednesday morning in Prescott to push for benefits, she says, her family is entitled to.

"I will do anything that I can to fight for the other 13 men that they're classifying as seasonal because they had lives and families and they gave the ultimate sacrifice for our community and they're not being treated fairly. They're not being given the benefits that someone should be given when they put their life on the line and ultimately lose their life to be able to save those of ours in the community," said Juliann Ashcraft.

Andrew Ashcraft, along with 12 other members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, were seasonal part-time workers.

They all died on June 30 when flames overran their position in the Yarnell Hill Fire.
 
They will all receive a one time payment of more than $328,000, but since they were part-time employees, their families won't receive full time benefits like pension, health or a lump sum life insurance payment.

The City of Prescott says rules and laws about benefits are very strict.

"The city has its hands tied. We're delivering everything we can to these families that is available. To equalize somebody's employment classification after the event is simply  impossible and illegal," said Pete Wetheim, with the city of Prescott.     

But some in the community aren't happy with that answer and say the part-time firefighters were just as much at risk.

"He also puts his life on the line just as much as any one who is full-time. It's not as it he can be 30 or 40 or 50 feet from the fire. His risk is just as intense as anybody else," said Ellen Woody, a Prescott resident.

House Speaker Andy Tobin says 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.

The Daily Courier reports that would qualify the survivors of the 13 deceased Hotshots for benefits such as health care.

Another bill planned by Tobin would have the state cover the costs of the death-related retirement benefits provided by Prescott.

Tobin says the seasonal firefighters' deaths are a wake-up call because use of seasonal and part-time employees is increasingly common.

A temporary fence is surrounding the spot where the 19 firefighters died.

A DPS report released a few weeks ago shows the hotshots went down a hill and couldn't see the flames were advancing behind them.

They were trapped by the fire after an erratic shift in winds cut of their escape route.

A final report from an interagency national team is expected in just a couple of weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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