PHOENIX -- When 19 firefighters were killed battling the Yarnell Hill wildfire this summer, people all across the state and country opened up their hearts and wallets. Now, some are questioning where their donations actually ended up.
For 45 years The 100 Club has been helping the families of injured and fallen first responders and with help from individual donations, corporate and community support. The Granite Mountain Hot Shots Survivor's fund has climbed to more than $3 million. As a result, this organization has been able to go above and beyond in providing assistance.
“While there were 19 firefighters killed, there were more than 19 families affected,” said Ciara Franklin with the 100 Club of Arizona. “We have spouses, children, parents, brothers and sisters so we actually asked for their bills, asked for their car payments, APS, mortgage and rent to figure out what we can do.”
Already the 100 Club of Arizona has paid out $1.1 million dollars. That primarily includes the $15K each family received, which is the standard "in the line of duty" death benefit, along with costs associated with funerals and memorials, travel expenses, food and lodging. After that, the amount each family receives varies.
“We're addressing each individual family's needs,” said Franklin. “Everybody is in a different situation so we have to figure out how to best serve them. So while funds might not be distributed equally they will be distributed fairly, based on need.”
Several organizations have been raising funds specifically for the families of the fallen 19.
-The 100 Club of Arizona has raised $3 million
-The Prescott Firefighters Charities has raised about $2.2 million
-The United Phoenix Firefighter Association has raised $2.4 million
-The Yavapai Community Foundation has raised $407 thousand
Some families have been vocal about the difference in benefits issued depending on the firefighter's status as either a seasonal or permanent employee of Prescott. But that status means nothing to these charities.
“We're working with families to get them insurance, pay off deductibles and co-pays for those already insured,” said Franklin. “Our support doesn't stop if part time or full time.”
While the 100 Club of Arizona is already helping the beneficiaries of these 19 fallen firefighters, the firefighter charities are working to establish a board that will figure out how best to divide and distribute the money raised, which depending on family dynamics and taxes, can be very complicated.