Now that FEMA has ruled it won’t financially help out families who were victims of a deadly forest fire in June, the state of Arizona might be the only government body to come to their rescue.
The Yarnell Hill Fire that burned thousands of acres, killed 19 hotshot firefighters and destroyed more than 100 homes in June also raised serious questions about benefits for “part-time” workers who risk their lives but might not be fully insured by their employers. In addition, it left displaced uninsured homeowners wondering what they might recover in the wake of a fire that started on federal land.
The largest controversy, though, has swirled around the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in the blaze. Of those, 13 were classified as seasonal or part-time. As a result, while their families received compensation for their sacrifices, the survivors of the six full-time workers will receive considerably more.
The seasonal firefighter families, led by the widow of one who died, have organized a public awareness campaign. Their goal: to receive the same benefits earmarked for the full-time firefighters’ survivors. But so far, despite widespread support, only the state seems willing to contribute.
First, the city of Prescott, which employed the firefighters, said it was legally obligated to treat the two types of workers differently when it came to benefits.