The widow of one of the 19 firefighters killed in Arizona while battling a wildfire on June 30 is being denied the benefits due to her late husband because the city he worked for is insisting he was a seasonal employee.
Juliann Ashcraft will receive worker's compensation and a one-time federal payment of $328,000 because of her husband’s death, but she is currently not slated to receive the lifetime salary and health benefits that the spouses of the full-time employees are getting.
Her husband, Andrew Ashcraft, was a member of the “Hotshot” crew based out of Prescott, Ariz., that was consumed by a fire fueled by strong wind changes.
"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," Juliann said. "I said to them, 'My husband was a full-time employee, he went to work full-time for you,' and their response to me was, 'Perhaps there was a communication issue in your marriage.'"
Prescott officials say that Andrew and 12 other members of the team were seasonal employees, but it is being reported that he worked on a full-time basis. Officials with local union group United Yavapai Firefighters said that Andrew was working 40 hours a week on a year-round basis, Raw Story reported.
“The city has fully complied with all of the laws and employment policies that direct survivor benefits,” city officials said in a statement.
Juliann was counting on the lifetime benefits in order to assist her with raising her four children, the youngest of whom is 18 months old.
"I want to be able to just be mourning my husband, be supporting my children, be figuring out what our new normal is," she said. "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. Now I have four kids and myself, and I don't know what I'm going to do."
A video about the story is below:
Sources: Raw Story, CBS News