The families of some Iowans who die “in the line of duty” will now get a 100-thousand dollar payment from the state’s pensions system. Governor Tom Vilsack has signed a bill into law which establishes the death benefit for police officers, firefighters, highway patrolmen, prison guards and other professionals who put their lives on the line. The 100-thousand dollars will be paid, retroactively, to the families of the three Keokuk firefighters who lost their lives in a December fire. Representative Phil Wise of Keokuk says it was a terrible tragedy. He says it “shook the community to its foundation.” Wise says it was a tragedy for the whole community.The new death benefit will not be paid, however, to volunteers who work in police and fire departments around the state. That’s a concern to Wise and others. Wise says volunteers also put their lives on the line, and says the explosion in Winterset that killed a volunteer is a good example. Wise says he will work with others to find a way to provide a comparable benefit for volunteers.Ames Fire Chief Clint Peterson calls the death benefit is a good first step for those who are paid to serve as firefighters. Peterson says he’s now concerned about “his brothers” who are volunteers. He says he hopes the legislature will move on to extend the benefit to those volunteers.Ames firefighter Richard Taylor was also on hand for today’s bill signing. He says everyone hopes they never have to use the death benefit, but says it’s a good thing for families in case something does go wrong.The bill signed into law today will provide the 100-thousand dollar benefit, retroactively, to the family of a Clinton County police officer killed in a high speed chase in 1992.
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