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Fri, Aug. 23

McDonough inquires with city about PSPRS benefits

Brendan McDonough

Brendan McDonough

PRESCOTT - Surviving Granite Mountain Hotshot Brendan McDonough has yet to make an official claim, but Prescott city officials say he has inquired about the possibility of applying for Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) benefits.

McDonough, who was serving as lookout for the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew during the June 2013 Yarnell Hill fire, was the lone survivor of the fire. The 19 other Hotshots died fighting the fire.

As a seasonal employee, McDonough was not a member of the PSPRS, but - like other seasonal Hotshots - was enrolled in the Arizona State Retirement System.

McDonough reportedly approached the city's human resources department recently about applying for medical disability through the PSPRS.

In response to that inquiry, Human Resources Analyst Melissa Fousek sent McDonough an email on April 1, noting that the local fire PSPRS board's attorney Donna Aversa had advised that McDonough would need to provide a copy of his claim to the local board, the City of Prescott, and the PSPRS administrator.

The email also provided the statutory requirements for the claim, which include submitting "a brief statement of the facts forming the basis of the claim."

McDonough, who has declined a request for a comment, earlier said he was dealing with post traumatic stress disorder.

After he left the city fire department in early 2014 for a job with an Idaho wildland firefighter organization, McDonough said he was moving on from his firefighting career and hoped to help others dealing with PTSD.

"I'm dealing with my own battle with PTSD," McDonough said. "It's nowhere near what a soldier deals with, but I do have my dreams."

Widows of three of the fallen seasonal Hotshots recently won PSPRS survivor benefits after the Prescott City Council chose not to appeal the decisions by the local PSPRS board and a Superior Court judge, awarding the benefits.

In the earlier hearings for the widows of fallen Hotshots Andrew Ashcraft, Sean Misner, and William Warneke, the local board conducted multi-day hearings to determine if the Hotshots had met the requirements for PSPRS.

In all three cases, the local board agreed with the widows that the seasonal Hotshots had met the requirements, including being municipal firefighters, working the required amount of time, and being engaged in hazardous duty.

Attorneys for Ashcraft, Misner, and Warneke maintained that the city had enrolled the seasonal Hotshots in the wrong system, and that they should have been enrolled in the PSPRS.

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