Fallen firefighters' families fight for full-time benefits - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Fallen firefighters' families fight for full-time benefits

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PHOENIX -

The fight is far from over and it could lead to a showdown in court -- this is a battle over benefits.

The difference between full-time employment and part-time seasonal is not so evident in pay, but more so  in benefits.

It's a significant difference, especially now that the 19 are gone.

Of the six full-time and 13 part-time Granite Mountain Hotshots, each of their families receives a one-time tax-free lump sum payment of roughly $330,000 from a federal fund.
  
The children and wives of full-time and part-time Hotshots also receive tuition waivers to Arizona's universities.
 
Here's the big difference in benefits: full-time Hotshots families receive life insurance, health insurance and accidental death benefits.

The city of Prescott tells us that means some families of full-time Hotshots are eligible for as much as $7,000 to $9,000 a month for life.
     
The part-timers do not qualify for those benefits -- that is what Andrew Ashcraft's widow is fighting for.

"And they're not being treated fairly.  They're not being given the benefits," said Juliann Ashcraft.

We spoke with two business employment  attorneys not related to this case, but they've handled cases like this before.

"You've got two competing issues.  You've got the legal aspect, what's black and white and you've got the equitable interests, what in fairness should really happen here and right now, they're really not getting along," said Stephanie Fierro of the Fruitkin Law Firm.   

One thing that's clear -- Prescott is in a no win situation.
   
If they don't pay, they look like heartless villains.  If they do try to pay the 13 seasonal part-time Hotshots life time benefits, they could bankrupt the  town.
   
James Arrowood of the Fruitkin Law Firm says if he were advising Prescott, he would tell them find a way to work this out, outside of court.

"You cannot win it if you put me in front of a jury with a firefighter's widow and facts that indicate he was working full-time. The city's going to lose.  It's just a question of how bad.. how painful is the process going to be for the city?  To go two years into litigation on this -- it shouldn't be happening."

Arrowood says he doesn't not know this case personally, but it doesn't matter.  If there are documents signed, if the city treated Andrew Ashcraft as a full-time employee and he worked 40 hours a week, then he is considered a full time equivalent.

Mrs. Ashcraft would have a strong case, if they can prove that adds Arrowood.

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