Massachusetts Lawmakers File Bill to Cover Death Benefit for Call Firefighter's Family

BOSTON (AP) -- Central Massachusetts lawmakers have filed a bill that would reserve $650,000 in state pension funds to provide a death benefit for the family of a part-time firefighter who died in a Lancaster house fire.

The action Tuesday came after Lancaster voters rejected a proposal for a locally funded death benefit for Martin McNamara's family earlier this month. The state does not require communities to provide death benefits to call and volunteer firefighters who die in the line of duty.

The legislation would provide McNamara's family an annual payout worth about two-thirds of the salary of the average area firefighter - about $30,000 annually.

Sen. Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, one of the bill's sponsors, has also filed legislation for the state to provide line of duty death benefits for call and volunteer firefighters.

``We know Marty McNamara will not be the last call firefighter to fall in the line of duty,'' Brewer said. ``We have to try to make sure their widows and children are taken care of by the people of this state. Anything less would be a disservice to them and to us.''

The McNamara family has received one-time accidental death benefit payouts of about $350,000 from the state and federal governments and another $30,000 from the town's insurance policy.

McNamara, of Clinton, was killed last November after being trapped in a basement during a fire. He left behind a wife and three young daughters.

``I think it's the right thing to do to ensure that Claire McNamara and her children have some support given what was lost,'' said Sen. Robert A. Antonioni, D-Leominster. ``We can't begin to replace Marty McNamara. But there is an obligation, really, to the commonwealth. The family shouldn't be dependent on charitable contributions.''