Arizona bill could bring benefits to Hotshot families - WRBL

Arizona bill could bring benefits to Hotshot families

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PRESCOTT, Arizona -

When the Yarnell, Arizona fire scorched more than 8,000 acres of Arizona wilderness earlier this year, it claimed the lives of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. At the time, the firefighters' families were assured they would be taken care of but more than a month after the tragedy one of the widows says the City of Prescott is not keeping that promise.

"It's a terrible tragedy and the bigger tragedy is that the people who can make it right aren't making it right," says Juliann Ashcraft, who's husband Andrew was one of the firefighters killed

The Ashcrafts are one of 13 families denied lifetime benefits by the City of Prescott because their relatives were considered seasonal employees.

"He worked full time hours, he had a full time responsibility, he had a full time salary," Mrs. Ashcraft said at a news conference. "There is no way that I can fathom how the city is justifying him as seasonal or part time.

Arizona lawmakers announced a draft bill that would grant full-time state employee benefits to any first responder who dies on state lands. The bill is retroactive to June 30, meaning the new rules would apply to the fallen hotshots and their families.

Among supporters of the bill is Brendan McDonough, the only hotshot to survive the deadly blaze.

"Please support the families," McDonough says in an interview with the Daily Courier newspaper in Prescott. McDonough was the lookout for the team the day the fire overcame his 19 friends.

"As I looked back to see how they were doing, I turned around and I could already see the wind had shifted," he says in the video interview This is the first time he spoke publicly about the fire.

McDonough was told to move to a safe position, but radio traffic made it clear his friends were trapped. The team deployed fire shelters as a desperate measure to try and save their lives.

Five weeks after the fire, McDonough and the families left behind are hopeful that the State of Arizona will follow through with its promise to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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