City Once United in Grief, Now Divided in Legal Issues
Posted: Friday, August 23rd, 2013 at 6:53 am
On June 30, 2013, 19 firefighters of an elite firefighting team perished in an Arizona wildfire. The lives lost included some firefighters in permanent positions and some in temporary positions. However, no one can deny that death and loss know no class nor employment classification. The shared grief in the community permeated the entire Prescott, Arizona population.
Since then, it was discovered that the town of Prescott will not be paying full benefits to the families of the temporary firefighters lost in the tragic event. City officials of “America’s Hometown” have been facing criticism as well as kudos for their decision.
At the crux of the problem is the law as it stands. Being that the temporary firefighters do not, under the current law, qualify for full benefits, the city officials are legally bound to maintain the status quo. Any variance from the current legislated rules would require an altering of said rules. The city’s legislature is not prone to doing that as it would create a huge financial burden on the city’s residents. In addition, as it stands, providing full-time benefits to temporary firefighters would be illegal.
On the other hand, the widow of one of the lost “temporary” firefighters insists that her husband had been working full-time shifts, morally, if not legally, entitling him to full benefits.
The benefits currently being presented to the families of the lost firefighters include:
- Tax-Free lump sum of $328,000
- Social Security Benefits
- Worker’s Compensation
- Free student tuition at Arizona colleges
- At least $15,000 donation from the 100 Club of Arizona
- Coverage for additional burial and travel costs
- Health Insurance premiums for a year
- A portion of additional donations still coming in
Benefits allowed only for “permanent” firefighters include:
- Health Insurance
- Increased Life Insurance
- Their annual salaries
In addition, banquets, barbecues and a concert are being promoted to benefit the families of the perished firefighters.
What began as an extremely sad loss of humanity, has evolved into a fight for benefits that are not legally valid and a sad struggle that is not benefiting anybody.