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Firefighting widow seeks benefits

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Relatives of one of the 19 Arizona hotshot firefighters killed by lightning-sparked wildfire flames this summer are challenging the City of Prescott over its survivor benefits policy.

The families of the 19 deceased Granite Mountain Hotshots will all receive workers compensation survivor benefits and the federal government will provide them a one-time payment of $328,000 because they were an interagency crew, according to news reports.

Only 6 of the 19 were full-time employees of the Prescott Fire Department eligible for additional income and health benefits from the city. The other 13 were seasonal workers and their families are not eligible for the Arizona city's benefits provided to full-time workers.

But the widow of Andrew Ashcraft, 29, argues that her husband was working more than 40 hours per week as a hotshot so she and her four children should be eligible for the additional benefits.

The Yarnell Hill Fire that killed the 19 near Yarnell, Ariz. on June 30, was the deadliest wildfire fire for firefighters since 1933.

As I write this, planes equipped to drop fire retardant steadily pass over my home in Boise, Id. They are helping battle a series of lightning-caused brush and forest fires raging the nearby mountains with the smoke making for unhealthy air conditions here in the valley and no relief in sight.

I can't even see the mountains today.

This morning my local paper offered a story about how wild-land firefighter deaths have prompted safety reform measures. The story is available here.

I can't wait for this fire season to be over, especially when thinking of the homes, forest land and lives at risk.