Granite Mountain Hotshot’s widow denied benefits
The widow of one of the 19 firefighters killed in late June battling an Arizona wildfire may not receive any compensation from the state.
Juliann Ashcraft, wife of Andrew Ashcraft, who died along with 18 other members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, is in a battle of her own with Prescott Ariz., over the lifetime benefits she says were guaranteed to her husband.
“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,” she told CBS News.
The blaze, which damaged more than 8,000 acres and destroyed at least 50 structures, was the deadliest wildfire in at least 30 years, according to a National Public Radio report.
CBS News reports all 19 Hotshot families will receive worker’s compensation and a one-time federal payment of $328,000. However, Prescott insists Ashcraft and 12 other firefighters were seasonal employees and are not entitled to the lifetime salaries and health benefits given to 6 of the team members’ families.
“I said to them, ‘My husband was a full time employee, he went to work full-time for you,’” Ashcraft told CBS News, “and their response to me was, ‘Perhaps there was a communication issue in your marriage.’”
CBS confirmed Ashcraft received a full-time salary. The local firefighters union told the news agency that of the 13 hotshots denied benefits, Ashcraft was the only one working 40 hours a week, year round.
Hotshot leader Eric Marsh’s widow, Amanda, remembers Eric saying how city officials wrangled him when he became a full time employee, according to Fox Carolina News. “He was very upset with the entire city council because they made it so hard for him to get benefits for that position,” Marsh said. Prescott issued a statement saying, “The city has fully complied with all of the laws and employment policies that direct survivor benefits.”
"I will do anything that I can to fight for the other 13 men that they're classifying as seasonal because they have lives and families and they gave the ultimate sacrifice for our community," Ashcroft said in a news conference last Wednesday. Prescott officials were scheduled to have a conference after Ashcraft’s, but canceled, according to CBS News. The news agency reports Ashcraft may soon file suit against the city.