Originally Published: August 7, 2013 6:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT - In a workshop punctuated by a widow's frustrated outburst, the Prescott City Council tentatively agreed Tuesday that a new crew should take the place of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Amanda Marsh, widow of hotshot Eric Marsh, spoke when the meeting adjourned - after Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said public comment would not be allowed during the study session. Marsh, however, took to the podium despite the mayor's repeated refusals.
"I am one of the widows and would like to have a chance to speak for two minutes," she said. "All I wanted to say was thank you for considering bringing the crew back on, because it was my husband's dream, so thank you very much."
She went on to criticize the city for releasing details of her husband's benefits to the media.
"Thank you so much for publishing my benefits in the paper. That was really nice and it makes a widow who lives by herself feel so safe," she said in a clearly sarcastic tone.
While they didn't make a formal decision on hiring 19 new wildland firefighters during an afternoon workshop, the council gave an informal nod to Prescott Fire Department Fire Chief Dan Fraijo to begin accepting applications to fill the vacant positions. The council will meet again on Tuesday, Aug. 20, to formalize the decision, following a detailed presentation of the department's needs.
"If we want to replace these people, we need to start soon in order to have them for next fire season," Fraijo said.
Fraijo said the city would need a Type I wildland fire team, but expressed some initial confusion as to whether council would replace the team.
"As far as Prescott, when they're here we have adequate protection. If this discussion is about replacing it or not replacing it, I need to know about it sooner than later," Fraijo said.
Emergency personnel filled the council chambers, hoping to hear a decision on the positions left unfilled when the Yarnell Hill fire took the lives of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30.
Family of the fallen hotshots, as well as media camera crews, came to the Tuesday meeting. Those survivors included Juliann Ashcraft, widow of hotshot Andrew Ashcraft. Ashcraft plans to hold a press conference today to discuss a grievance with the city over her husband's benefits.
Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said public participation on the topic of staffing would come during a later meeting.
"It's the start of conversation. From this conversation we will probably come back again and again," Kuykendall said.
The discussion covered the city's wildland division, rebuilding wildland management and firefighting capabilities, funding to assure adequacy of public safety services, preserving community amenities, programs and services.
Council members discussed re-staffing the hotshot crew near the end of the public meeting Tuesday afternoon, after covering items such as city sidewalks, the success of the Whiskey Off Road event, and other issues.