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Ariz. Hotshot widows win survivor benefits fight

Widow Juliann Ashcraft said she was “grateful to the council for voting with their conscience as opposed to whatever bureaucracy that was happening behind the scenes”


PRESCOTT, Ariz. — The widows of three Granite Mountain Hotshots will receive public safety survivor benefits after city officials voted to end its legal opposition.

AZ Central reported that the city council voted not to appeal the decision of the Prescott Public Safety Retirement Board in the cases of two of the Hotshots, Sean Misner and William Warneke, and to halt further appeals in the case of firefighter Andrew Ashcraft.

The three men, along with 16 other members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, were killed on June 30, 2013, in a wildfire on Yarnell Hill. The crew was trapped as winds pushed the flames through the dry chaparral.

Only six of the firefighters were classified as full-time, permanent employees. City officials said the survivors of the other men were ineligible for benefits. Families of the seasonal firefighters received less compensation than the full-time crew members.

The three widows contested that decision.

The retirement board granted the full-time employee benefits to the families of all three of the men. The city appealed the ruling in favor of Ashcraft last year, but lost at the Superior Court level in January, according to the report.

Days later, the retirement board ruled in favor of Misner and Warneke, leaving the council with the option of taking those cases to court or allowing the board decision to stand.

The council voted 4-2 to halt appeals in the cases of Misner and Warneke and 5-1 to halt appeals in Ashcraft’s case.

“We’re very grateful to the city of Prescott for ending the litigation in a way that not only honors the service of the hotshots but reflects the dignity of the local board that made the initial recommendations,” said Pat McGroder, the attorney who had represented the widows in all three cases.

“These are extraordinary women, women of integrity,” McGroder said. “All of that was on display during the hearings.”