DRAPER — The Draper City Fire Department has confirmed a firefighter killed while fighting the Mendocino Complex Fires in California is a Utah firefighter with their department.
Mayor Troy Walker identified the fallen firefighter as Battalion Chief Matt Burchett, 42, who leaves behind a wife and son. Burchett is described as a veteran with extensive experience in the Unified Fire Department.
.#BREAKING: @drapercity Mayor identifies Batallion Chief Matt Burchett as the firefighter killed battling a wildfire in California. He leaves behind a wife and son and a heartbroken department. pic.twitter.com/Ak4rHxtTRh
— Caitlin Burchill (@newsyCaitlin) August 14, 2018
The Associated Press is reporting that Burchett was working with several other firefighters downstream from a dam when a tree fell and hit them.
Burchett started work with Draper in May of this year and was considered an expert in fighting wildland fires. Draper Fire Battalion Chief Bart Vawdrey says he had only worked with Burchett in the same department for a few months, but he had known him, personally, for many years.
“He was a great man. He had a very dry wit and was very professional. If I had to describe him, I would describe him as a master of his craft,” Vawdrey says.
Details of the funeral have not been arranged, yet. Vawdrey says they’re still trying to get Burchett’s body back to his home state.
Vawdrey says, “We’ll be working with CalFire along with the state of Utah and Salt Lake County to get Matt back home.”
Asked about the remaining four Draper firefighters who were serving with Burchett in California, Walker said he expected they would return to Utah soon, saying they have already been pulled from the active fire line.
Walker says Burchett was injured while fighting the Mendocino Complex Fires, California’s largest-ever wildfire, and died after he was taken to a hospital.
News of Burchett’s death comes at a difficult time for the Draper City Fire Department. Earlier this summer, Fire Marshal Bryan Thatcher died unexpectedly.
Firefighters across Utah stood in solidarity with the Draper department on learning the news. At the Coal Hollow Fire in Utah, crews held a moment of silence at the start of their day in memory of Burchett.
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