Special Utah committee hearing aims to fix error in firefighter retirement benefits

May 16, 2023, 10:13 PM | Updated: May 17, 2023, 1:24 pm

Matt Hambleton, a firefighter with the Unified Fire Authority, died on April 12, 2023, after servin...

Matt Hambleton, a firefighter with the Unified Fire Authority, died on April 12, 2023, after serving for more than 20 years. (Utah Task Force 1/Facebook)

(Utah Task Force 1/Facebook)

SALT LAKE CITY — When the Utah Legislature meets for its special session Wednesday, lawmakers will hear about HB1003 — which deals with retirement benefits for the families of firefighters.

Last month, Matt Hambleton, a firefighter with the Unified Fire Authority, died. He had been a firefighter for 28 years and headed up many projects, including the heavy rescue program.

His higher-ups said he performed thousands of hours of training to crew on that and other specialty programs. He was also part of Utah Task Force 1 and went to New York after 9/11 to help with operations there.

But when he died last month, he was part of what legislators and lobbyists call a clerical error, which meant his family would only get half of his life insurance plan.

It stems back to a bill passed in 2018. At that time, legislators passed the law, including what’s called Division A and B public safety and Division A and B firefighters. The law would entitle beneficiaries of 20+ year employees, who had died not in the line of service, to 75% of the average of the highest three years of service. But for some reason, Division B firefighters were left off the bill.

At a Retirement and Independent Entities Committee hearing Tuesday, lawmakers said they had reviewed the 2018 bill and all verbiage, including the Division B firefighters. Division B public safety and firefighters don’t pay into social security during their working years. As a result, they don’t get social security paid to them during retirement.

In Utah, there are 13 fire departments that are entirely Division B workers. So, this “clerical error” could potentially affect thousands of Utah firefighters after they reach 20 years with their department.

Monica Hambleton found out about the bill and the mistake that would mean she would only get half of that 75% just days after her husband’s death. She said her husband’s coworkers quickly came to her aid.

A handful of them sat next to her Tuesday during the committee hearing, in which the bill passed unanimously. It now goes to the full House and Senate for votes.

Monica Hambleton said her late husband was “the life of the party,” and his former coworkers agree, although they said his antics were never present when they were on official business.

(Utah Task Force 1/Facebook) (Utah Task Force 1/Facebook) (Utah Task Force 1/Facebook) (Utah Task Force 1/Facebook) (Utah Task Force 1/Facebook) (Utah Task Force 1/Facebook) (Utah Task Force 1/Facebook)

Monica Hambleton said the support of the firefighters saved her this last month.

“I couldn’t be standing here today without them,” she told KSL TV. “They helped me get through the funeral. They helped me get through this.”

Unified Fire Authority Fire Chief Dominic Burchett said Hambleton was a stellar firefighter and a good friend, and he is missed.

“He was a huge part of our fire department,” Burchett said. “The biggest thing he was known for is his time with heavy rescue.”

Burchett said he’s thankful Gov. Spencer Cox agreed to put this item on the agenda for Wednesday’s special session. Monica Hambleton agrees and is thankful for her late husband’s teammates that are now making sure she and her family are taken care of.

“There are no words,” she said. “His other family rallied — his firefighter family rallied for our family.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

FILE PHOTO (Grand County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)...

Josh Ellis

Four killed after small plane crashes north of Moab airport

Four people have died after a small plane crashed shortly after taking off from the Canyonlands Regional Airport north of Moab.

3 hours ago

Juno Uyematsu picks fruit on the Anderson farm for employment as a kid." (Courtesy: Juno Uyematsu)...

Erin Cox

Utah museum calls for oral histories, trying to share Utah’s Japanese history

One family is partnering with their local museum to help tell a story we know very little about, and they need your help.

12 hours ago

The scene of the fatal hit and run near 900 E 6300 S....

Brianna Chavez

Murray police search for suspect who killed an elderly man in hit-and-run crash

Murray City police say a man in his 70s was hit and killed by a car on Friday night, and they are looking for the person responsible.

16 hours ago

FILE: Attendees at the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Conference Center....

Eliza Pace

20 new temples announced during October 2023 General Conference

The locations of 20 new temples were announced during the 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

17 hours ago

Car accident on US189 on October 1, 2023. (Steve Fisher)...

Mary Culbertson and Shelby Lofton, KSL TV

One killed in collision near Deer Creek Reservoir

A fatal car crash in Provo Canyon involving a truck pulling a trailer and a semi-truck killed at least one person.

20 hours ago

The Osmonds: Faith, Family, and Fame is a documentary celebrating the amazing contributions the Osm...

Carole Mikita

The Osmonds: Faith, Family and Fame

The Osmonds is a documentary that gives a behind-the-scenes look inside the iconic Osmond Family. Through rare archival footage and interviews, the segment is a tribute and celebration of the remarkable contributions the family made to music, entertainment, and the world at large.

21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

rodeo contestant on a saddle bronc...


Get Ready for the Days of ‘47 Rodeo!

The Days of '47 Rodeo is a series of events everyone in the family can enjoy, with world-class rodeo contestants vying for the gold medal.

Electric LED Lightbulb Change In Light At Home...

Lighting Design

How to Know When to Upgrade Your Lighting

This guide explores indicators that suggest it’s time for a lighting upgrade with tips to make an informed decision when you’re ready to buy. 

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Special Utah committee hearing aims to fix error in firefighter retirement benefits