New Prescott hires have similar descriptions but not 'hotshots' - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

New Prescott hires have similar descriptions but not 'hotshots'

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PRESCOTT, AZ (CBS5) -

Three new hires signed the same temporary employment status papers and carry similar job descriptions to most of those members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots team.

Nineteen of the 20-member team died battling an Arizona wildfire near the town of Yarnell in late June.

The city of Prescott says the new hires are not the beginnings of a replacement hotshot crew. A city representative says the three positions are made every summer for forest thinning; a preventative measure to protect the city from wildfires. However, that was also a primary task for the city's Granite Mountain Hotshots crew.

Prescott is the only city in the country with a hotshot crew but since the deadly wildfire, those positions have not been replaced.

"What I'd like to do is have a magic wand and make all the ills of the past go away but that's not reality," Prescott council member Jim Lamerson said.

Fifty days after the fire, the city has 19 empty positions with their tasks being handled by three temp workers. Although the temporary employees won't go into a fire, they share many of the duties hotshot firefighters were tasked with.

Lamerson said he'd like to continue the legacy of the elite group of firefighters but the hang-up is on funding and the city's continuing battle with benefits and liability.

"If the federal government is not going to clean its woods up, if the state won't clean its woods up, if [Yavapai] County won't clean its woods up, by golly, we can take care of that," he said. "The issue is, who foots the bill?"

The already financially stressed city will likely face insurance hikes as a result of the lives lost at the Yarnell Hill Fire. On top of that, the upfront training costs for a new hot shot crew would be another great cost to taxpayers.

Lamerson said assistance from the federal or state governments would be a big step toward the re-establishment of a working hotshot crew in Prescott.

In Arizona, proposed legislation would cover death benefits for firefighters working on state lands. The author, state Rep. Andy Tobin, says the proposed legislation would be retroactive to cover the families of those Granite Mountain Hotshots, who died fighting a wildfire on state grounds.

For more on this story, follow Shawn Kline on Facebook and Twitter.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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