Special session will address death benefits for Utah firefighters

May 17, 2023, 9:37 AM

One of the issues that Utah lawmakers will address during the first special session of 2023 involve...

FILE: Unified Fire Authority's Matt Hambleton is carried downstream after releasing his rescue belt during swift-water rescue training in the Provo River on Thursday, May 10, 2018. Hambleton's death in 2023 exposed a flaw in firefighter death benefits that lawmakers will address in special session (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — One of the issues Utah lawmakers will address during the first special session of 2023 involves death benefits for fallen firefighters.

It’s a clerical mistake explained Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, that for some Utah families has far-reaching effects.

Related: Firefighter death benefits added to special session of the Utah Legislature

“If somebody passed away while they were in service, but hadn’t yet retired,” Wilcox told KSL Newsradio, “then their families, even though they were eligible to retire, their families received a dramatically reduced retirement benefit.”

Wilcox said that Utah splits firefighters into Division A and Division B categories. Category B firefighters like Hambleton were left out of a 2018 law that gives a benefits package to the families of first responders that die.

Related: Special session of Utah legislature is called by Gov. Cox

The issue of Utah firefighters’ death benefits came to light last month when Unified firefighter Matt Hambleton died. Hambleton joined the department almost three decades ago, and went to New York City after 9/11 to assist in cleanup efforts. However, his family was only left with half of his life insurance policy following his death. 

There are thirteen Utah fire departments that are entirely Division B firefighters, meaning thousands of first responders are in death benefits limbo. 

“We call on our worst days, at our worst moments. And they show up over and over again,” he told KSL NewsRadio, “and then they pay the price for being there on our worst days. We can’t let that go without getting them the treatment, the help, and the support that they need.”


This week Utah lawmakers will address a new bill that will fix the error, Wilcox said.





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Special session will address death benefits for Utah firefighters