August 10, 2015
CONTACT: Paul Q. Goyette, President and CEO, Goyette & Associates, Inc.
(916) 851-1900
Sacramento, CA – For more than a decade, Cal Fire executives have concealed and failed to confer mandatory survivor’s benefits upon the families of 14 pilots who have been killed while fighting wildland fires in California.
Pilots of some helicopters and all fixed wing aircraft fighting fires in California, are independent contractors, not employed by Cal Fire. As such, they are not entitled to any of the benefits a California firefighter receives. These contracted pilots are poorly paid and cannot qualify for life insurance. California Public Resources Code Section 4114.5 mandates that the widows and orphans of these pilots are provided for with a one-time survivors benefit, should the pilot die in the line of duty while fighting fires to protect California resources and residents. To date, Cal Fire has not disclosed the benefit to any family, nor have they paid one claim.
Cal Fire acknowledged the existence of CPRC section 4114.5 and has publicly supported the death benefit for survivors of deceased pilots, but inexplicably refuses to pay the benefit or even disclose its existence the grieving survivors.
A claim for benefits under the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board was filed on behalf of the survivors on August 7, 2015 by the law firm of Goyette & Associates,Inc. “The bottom line is that the law is crystal clear on this,” says Paul Goyette. “These helicopter and air tanker pilots have one of the most dangerous jobs in firefighting, but simply because they are private contractors, their families get nothing if they give their lives protecting California. This law requires that the survivors are taken care of after the ultimate sacrifice was made by their husband or father. To hide and deny them this benefit is simply shameful. The Cal Fire executives need to finally do the right thing and we are going to make sure that they do.”
CPRC Section 4114 5 (00000002)
Legislative History (00000002)
Completed CVGCB Claim