Nightly News   |  August 07, 2013

Widow of fallen Arizona firefighter fights for benefits

Widow Juliann Ashcraft, whose husband was one of the 19 firefighters who died in the Yarnell Hill fire, says the city of Prescott is turning its back on the families of the fallen. Those firefighters classified as “temporary” employees do not get full benefits or qualify for a significant family pay-out if they die in the line of duty. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> in prescott , arizona, where 19 firefighters were killed battling a massive wildfire this summer, one of the widows spoke out today claiming she and other families are not getting as much financial support from city officials as she thinks they deserve. many members of a granite mountain hot shot team were classified as part time . their work often seen as seasonal. that could mean a big difference in compensation for their families. nbc's miguel almaguer has the story from prescott .

>> reporter: in front of the county courthouse today, julieanne ash craft went public.

>> i stand here not just for me. there were 19 men that perished in the fire.

>> reporter: the widow, mother of four, her husband andrew, one of 19 firefighters killed in the arnell hill fire . ashcraft said the city turned its back on the families left behind.

>> these good employees of theirs that perished did everything they could for this city and the city is doing the bare minimum in return.

>> reporter: in the days following the tragedy, the city pledged to help families of the fallen.

>> we will be here to support you, to include you.

>> reporter: but andrew ashcraft and 12 other hot shots were classified as temporary employees, fighting wildland fires as seasonal workers. an injustice, says the firefighters union.

>> these are seasonal employees. they work full time . they work their full fire season. they take the full risk, but unfortunately their families do not receive the full protection.

>> reporter: across the country more than 10,000 firefighters are classified as seasonal. in many cases they don't get full benefits or wouldn't qualify for a significant family payout should they die in the line of duty. in a statement, the city of oppress cot said it has been mistakenly suggested that the city made a promise it would somehow find a way to retroactively re classify temporary employees as permanent. the city cannot do this legally. ashcraft and all the families will receive a payout of nearly $330,000. millions less than a full-time employee.

>> to me it's not a matter of which of the 19 deserve benefits. they all do.

>> reporter: tonight the firefight may be over but the battle over benefits has just begun. miguel almaguer, prescott , arizona.