Yarnell families reach $600K settlement with state

The Yarnell 19 (Source: KPHO/KTVK)

It has been two years since the tragedy at Yarnell Hill – 19 Arizona firefighters died battling that blaze on June 30, 2013.

On Monday, the families of 12 of those firefighters announced they've reached a settlement in their lawsuit against the state. The 12 families in the suit will each receive $50,000 for their loss.

"My final comments are for my son, Andrew. I promise to find the truth, and I will continue that path," said Deborah Pfingston, mother of fallen firefighter Andrew Ashcroft. "I promise to live life until I see you again even though there are days I wake up and I have to fight to breath."

While the money is helpful, families of two of the men said they are more concerned with making changes in the wildfire fighting community.

"I do not want my husband and his firefighter brothers to have died in vain," Roxanne Warneke, widow of Billy Warneke, said. "And I dread the day when my daughter asks me why she never had the chance to meet her father because he died before she was born."

The families of Warneke and Ashcroft decided to donate all their settlement money to create the Wildland Firefighter Guardian Institution, a safety watchdog for the nation's wildfire industry.

"[It's a] foundation that will be formed from the love, the concern and the dedication to wildland firefighters from the wives and parents of the fallen firefighters of [the] Granite Mountain hotshot crew," Roxanne Warneke said.

The settlement also included input from the Arizona State Forestry Division, agreeing to nearly 60 additional safety steps, including better tracking and communication for crews on the ground. These are safety steps that will hopefully prevent any more days like June 30, 2013.

"Each change could prevent another death or another tragedy," said Juliann Ashcroft, the widow of Andrew Ashcroft.RELATED: 19 hotshots killed in Yarnell Hill Fire honored on 2nd anniversary

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