The widow of one of the 19 "hotshot" firefighters who died in an Arizona wildfire in late June is being denied lifetime benefits by the city of Prescott, despite what she describes as her dead husband's full-time commitment to the force, CBS News reports.
Officials in Prescott, Ariz., claim that Juliann Ashcraft's husband, Andrew, was a seasonal employee and that his family is therefore not entitled to the benefits. But Mrs. Ashcraft says her husband had a full-time weekly workload of 40 hours before his death on June 30. She said she planned to use her husband's lifetime salaries and health package to support her four children.
"I said to them, 'My husband was a full-time employee, he went to work full-time for you,'" Mrs. Ashcraft told CBS News. "Their response to me was, 'Perhaps there was a communication issue in your marriage.'"
The death of Mr. Ashcraft, a Granite Mountain Hot Shots "Rookie Of The Year" in 2011, and his 18 peers garnered national attention at the time of the fire, and thousands attended a memorial service in the tragedy's aftermath.
The Ashcrafts are one of 13 hotshot families being denied lifetime benefits by the city based on the work being seasonal. However, Mr. Ashcraft was the only one to work 40 hours per week throughout the year, according to CBS.
CBS obtained paperwork confirming that Andrew received a full-time salary from the city. Even still, the city of Prescott maintains that it has "fully complied with all of the laws and employment policies that direct survivor benefits," according to a statement obtained by CBS.
As of now, the 13 families will instead receive worker's compensation and a federal payment of $328,000.
The Fair Labor Standards Act does not define full-time employment or part-time employment, a metric typically determined by the employer, according to the U.S. Department Of Labor. There is also no defined one-time death benefit for the families of Arizona firefighters, and workers' compensation varies depending on the size of the firefighter's family, according to the Bureau Of Justice Assistance.
The 9,000-acre fire was the deadliest wildland blaze for firefighters in 80 years, according to CNN. The city of Prescott lost roughly 20 percent of their firefighter force as a result of the blaze.
(h/t Raw Story)