The Latest: Utah firefighter remembered as sharp leader

August 20, 2018
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Firefighters carry the casket of Battalion Chief Matt Burchett of the Draper Fire Department into the Maverik Center during funeral services Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, in West Valley City, Utah. Burchett died while fighting a wildfire north of San Francisco. He was flown to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on a Utah firefighter killed battling California blaze (all times local):

3:45 p.m.

A suburban Salt Lake City firefighter who battled wildfires throughout his life has been laid to rest after his death fighting California’s largest recorded blaze.

Friends and family said Monday that 42-year-old Matthew Burchett thrived when he was sleeping on the ground, eating rations and working to protect people.

He was described as a sharp, hardworking leader with a well-known grin and unassuming manner.

He is survived by his wife Heather and 7-year-old son Griffin, who carried his father’s helmet underneath his arm as he entered the funeral.

Burchett died Aug. 13 from falling tree debris after a load of fire retardant was dropped on the area where he was working.

Unified Fire Authority spokesman Ryan Love says Burchett was one of the most knowledgeable wildfire fighters in the state and careful about his surroundings.


1 p.m.

A preliminary report says a firefighter died last week from falling tree debris after a retardant drop on California’s largest-ever wildfire.

The “blue sheet” summary report by California fire officials says Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett was struck by falling tree debris on Aug. 13 at the Mendocino Complex Fire after a large air tanker completed a drop. Three other firefighters had minor injuries.

The two-paragraph summary calls for an immediate corrective action, saying firefighters must remain clear of areas with overhead hazards during retardant drops.

Paul Grenier, a spokesman for California’s firefighting agency, said he couldn’t provide more details because the investigation is continuing.

Funeral services for the 42-year-old Burchett are being held Monday in his home state of Utah. He leaves behind a wife and 7-year-old son.

Update hourly