PRESCOTT, AZ - The battle over benefits for more than a dozen fallen firefighters continues, as widow Juliann Ashcraft addressed her dispute with the City of Prescott in a Wednesday news conference.
Ashcraft's husband, Andrew, was one of 13 Granite Mountain Hotshots classified as seasonal or temporary, marking a dramatic difference in benefits paid out to their families.
Andrew Ashcraft and 18 of his crewmates were killed June 30 while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.
"I will do anything that I can to fight for the 13 men that they're classifying as seasonal, because they had lives and families, and they gave the ultimate sacrifice for our community," Juliann said at the news conference.
The mother of four said she is in a unique situation, as her husband was hired on in 2011 as a seasonal employee, but had since been promoted to full-time status with a pay raise and full-time schedule. Unfortunately, according to Juliann, there was no documentation of his promotion aside from his pay increase.
Now, the city is doing the "bare minimum" for the 13 families, choosing to only "meet legal requirements" when deciding on the firefighters' benefits, Juliann said Wednesday.
"This is unfathomable, it's disappointing. I've been shocked at how the city officials have treated my family," she admitted.
Juliann and her attorney said they have yet to receive a response from the city following letters they have sent over the benefits.
They reportedly have a 180-day period before a lawsuit can be filed, and Juliann says she hopes a resolution can be reached before that time period ends, but admits she is exploring that option.
She also spoke out about Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall's involvement in the benefits struggle.
"The mayor is the ring leader as far as I'm concerned. He has been horrific, he's been uncompassionate. His job as mayor of the city is to make sure we're unified."
During Wednesday's news conference, Juliann did speak highly of the fire department, local community, and international supporters who have come to the aid of the 19 families.
"Through such a horrible tragedy I have been overwhelmed with how good people are to their core," she said through tears. "Ninety-nine percent of the world is being so gracious and so kind, but there is that small percent that has not done that for our family. Unfortunately that tiny percent are the people in a position to make it right."