AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champBut the senator also wrote the legislation to extend even further back – to 1976 – to encompass all crashes listed in reliable records. “These contract pilots and crew members assume the same risks (as government firefighters),” she said. “Yet they are denied equal benefits if they are killed or injured in the line of duty.” Statistics from Associated Airtanker Pilots indicate Feinstein’s bill would encompass as many as 100 pilots’ families. The U.S. Forest Service and Cal-FIRE are two of the largest customers of air tanker contractors. After the death of Wells-Groff’s husband, the state set up a benefits program for the pilots it contracts with to fly government-owned air tankers – but did not make it retroactive. Wells-Groff has taken her federal denial-of-benefits lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not yet decided if it will review the case. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SACRAMENTO – U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced a bill to end “unfair” government denial of benefits to the families of about 100 firefighting pilots killed in crashes since 1976. The bill, which has bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, would extend federally financed death benefits to contract pilots killed while on firefighting missions for the government. They currently receive none because they work for private firms that are under contract to government agencies. Feinstein’s aides said she learned of what she called the “loophole” in government treatment of the pilots after a Daily News story on a California widow’s plight. The measure would extend retroactively to include Christine Wells-Groff, whose husband crashed at a north-state blaze in 2001.