January 24, 2019

Widow of Fallen Arizona Hotshot Firefighter Denied Death Benefits

Arizona_Wildfires_DeathThe young widow of a firefighter who died with 18 others while battling an Arizona wildfire in June has reportedly been denied the lifetime benefits she sought to raise the couple’s four children.

Juliann Ashcraft, 28, said she will receive workers’ compensations and a one-time federal payment of $328,000 in the death of her 29-year-old husband Andrew, who was among the Granite Mountain Hotshots who were killed on June 30 while fighting a wildfire near Yarnell, CBS reports.

“I want to be able to just be mourning my husband, be supporting my children, be figuring out what our new normal is,” Ashcraft told CBS. “As shocked as I was that my husband went to work and never came home, I’m equally shocked in how the city has treated our family since then.”

But Ashcraft was told that her husband and 12 others among the group were seasonal employees whose relatives are not entitled to the millions in lifetime salaries and health benefits, even though he worked 40 hours a week. Just six families of the 19 firefighters killed will receive the benefit packages, CBS reports.

“I said to them, ‘My husband was a full-time employee, he went to work full-time for you,’” she said. “And their response to me was, ‘Perhaps there was a communication issue in your marriage.’”

Ashcraft, who may sue the city of Prescott, said she had been counting on those funds to raise the couple’s four children, the youngest of whom is 18 months old.

Ashcraft’s mother, Deborah Pfingston, has planned a news conference Wednesday in Prescott. It was originally scheduled for Tuesday.

Pfingston said city officials promised they would retroactively reclassify the seasonal, temporary employees as permanent so the families could receive additional survivor benefits.

City officials have countered that they cannot legally and posthumously reclassify the men as full-time employees so their families can receive additional benefits, including health insurance.

City spokesman Pete Wertheim told The Associated Press that six of the firefighters were permanent employees. Thirteen, including Ashcraft, were seasonal.

FoxNews.com / The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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