PHOENIX (CBS Las Vegas/AP) — The mother and widow of one of 19 firefighters killed in an Arizona wildfire wants the city of Prescott to provide family survivor benefits reserved for full-time employees.
Deborah Pfingston’s 29-year-old son, Andrew Ashcraft, died June 30 with 18 other members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots while working a wildfire around Yarnell. An investigation into the matter is ongoing.
Pfingston plans to have a news conference on Tuesday in Prescott.
The grieving mother also said city officials promised they would retroactively reclassify the seasonal, temporary employees as permanent so the families could receive additional survivor benefits.
Widow Juliann Ashcraft told CBS News she has been denied lifetime benefits which would help raise her four children and is considering filing a lawsuit against the city to receive them.
“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 said.
CBS News is reporting that all 19 families will receive a one-time federal payment of $328,000 and worker’s compensation, but that the 13 seasonal employees are not entitled to the same benefits that are worth millions that families of full-time employees get.
“I said to them, ‘My husband was a full-time employee, he went to work full-time for you,’” Ashcraft said, “and their response to me was, ‘Perhaps there was a communication issue in your marriage.’”
City officials, meanwhile, say they cannot legally posthumously reclassify the men as full-time employees so their families can receive additional benefits, including health insurance.
“The city has fully complied with all of the laws and employment policies that direct survivor benefits,” the city said in a statement to CBS News.
CBS News learned that despite being a seasonal employee, Andrew Ashcraft did earn a full-time salary and worked 40 hours a week year round.
“Quite literally, my bills are being paid by the good people of the world who are giving donations, because the city of Prescott isn’t doing anything for us,” Juliann Ashcraft said. “Now I have four kids and myself, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
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