Widow: Arizona lawmakers must address hotshot crew benefits

Les Stukenberg/The Daily CourierIn this screen capture from video, Superintendent Eric Marsh leads the Granite Mountain Hotshots down Granite Mountain during a training hike in 2010.Arizona Daily Star – by Doug Kreutz

The widow of one of the 19 firefighters killed in a June 30 wildfire near Prescott Thursday called for a special session of the Arizona Legislature to address benefits issues for firefighters’ families.

Roxanne Warneke, widow of firefighter BillyWarneke of the Tucson area, said her husband was one of 13 seasonal employees on the stricken Granite Mountain Hotshots unit. Their families are slated to receive fewer financial benefits than the six permanent members.  

At a news conference, Warneke shared a letter she sent to Gov. Jan Brewer. It said, in part, “My husband his fellow hotshots each toed the line equally. Each man equally made the same ultimate sacrifice, and each family merits equal benefits in the aftermath of that sacrifice.”

Extending full survivors’ benefits to the families of 13 seasonal firefighters killed in the line of duty not only would be illegal but it’s a cost Prescott cannot afford, city officials said Wednesday in an Associated Press news story.

The city released estimates showing the price tag would top $50 million over 60 years and lead to cuts in services vital to the public. In the event the city were to pay out the benefits in one lump sum, the cost would be $24 million — or three times the budget of the entire Prescott Fire Department that employed the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

The six other Granite Mountain Hotshots who died June 30 in the Yarnell Hill Fire were classified as full-time employees.


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