Fallen firefighter's mother seeks death benefits - New York News

Fallen firefighter's mother seeks death benefits

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Andrew Ashcraft and family (file) Andrew Ashcraft and family (file)
PRESCOTT, Ariz. -

The mother of one of the 19 Granite Mountain hotshots who died while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire wants his family to receive benefits that are given to loved ones of full-time firefighters. But the city of Prescott says he wasn't full-time and can't receive those benefits.

It is so tough to look at this in black and white with so much pain and emotion surrounding the deaths of the Prescott 19, but the city of Prescott says it has to do this by the numbers, as painful as that is.

Ashcraft and 12 others were seasonal part-time employees. They worked mostly during the fire season, and their pensions and benefits reflect that.

Andrew Ashcraft just re-signed in February of this year to be a temporary seasonal employee with the city of Prescott as a Granite Mountain hotshot.

He got a pay increase this year to $15.03 an hour.

In his application paperwork, the city says Ashcraft signed an acknowledgement that as a temporary employee he would not receive certain benefits.

"The city has its hands tied. We're delivering everything we can to these families that is available. To equalize somebody's employment classification after the event is simply impossible and illegal," says Pete Wertheim, city of Prescott.

So while their families will receive about $329,000 in federal benefits, they will not receive survivor benefits, like life insurance, pension, and health insurance plans.

Ashcraft's mother, Deborah Pfingston is planning a news conference at the Prescott Courthouse Tuesday. In an e-mail, she said she is upset that the city has chosen to deny her son Andrew his full -time benefits.

The city of Prescott realizes that some people will view it as the villain of the century in all of this, but says no matter how much it might want to, it cannot change the rules or the laws.

On the streets of Prescott, people say Andrew Ashcraft and the other part timers on the Granite Mountain Crew deserve those full time benefits.

"he also puts his life on the line just as much as anyone who is full time, it's not as if he can be 30 or 40 or 50 feet from the fire, his risk is just as intense as anybody else," says Ellen Woody, Prescott resident.

"They say they'd be breaking the law and the rules of pension say, you can't do it. Well laws were made by men and they're changed by men. If that's the law then change the law because these people sacrificed their life. You can't give any more than that," says resident Richard Maldonado.

The city asks the question, then what about the other employees? There was a sanitation city worker killed two years ago. He was a part-timer, and lost his life. His family received the part time benefits. What about all those who came before?

City spokesman Pete Wertheim says 6 of the firefighters were permanent employees, while 13, including Ashcraft, were seasonal.

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