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Senate Oks Death Benefit For Firefighters

The families of four Seattle firefighters killed in a warehouse fire earlier this year would receive a $150,000 death benefit from the state under a bill approved by the Senate on Monday.

More than 100 off-duty firefighters crowded into the Senate gallery and gave the senators a standing ovation when the vote was announced.

But it wasn’t unanimous. There were five dissenters.

“I have sympathetic understanding for these people, and I’m sorry such a law wasn’t put on the books long ago,” said Sen. Bob Morton, R-Orient, who voted “no.” He pointed out survivors of the four Seattle firefighters each will receive a lump-sum benefit of nearly $130,000 from the federal government plus burial costs, a survivor’s benefit and a pension ranging up to 60 percent of the firefighter’s salary.

Also voting “no” was Sen. Harold Hochstatter, R-Moses Lake, who said he is sympathetic but wonders why volunteer firefighters weren’t included in the legislation. “Don’t volunteers die in the line of duty?” he asked.

Speaking in favor of SB5322, Sen. Marcus Gaspard, D-Puyallup, said the benefit would serve as a memorial to “those who sacrifice themselves for our safety.”

The bill now goes to the House.

The measure covers all firefighters, Washington State Patrol troopers, police officers, sheriff’s deputies and fisheries patrol officers and wildlife agents.