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The City Journals

Draper community mourns fallen hero Matthew Burchett

Aug 23, 2018 02:33PM ● By Jana Klopsch

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

On the night that Dominic Burchett learned his brother Matthew had died while fighting wildfires in California, he was camping with his family. He went outside and stared into the sky where he saw multiple shooting stars. “Matt’s life was like a shooting star,” he thought, “brilliant, bright, high speed and way too short.” 

Hundreds of people gathered into the Maverick Center on Aug. 20 to honor the life of Matthew Burchett, the Draper Fire Department battalion chief who gave his life to help fight the Mendocino Complex Wildfire in California. 

“He died doing what he loved,” said Dominic, who also works as a firefighter for the Unified Fire Authority. 

“The first couple of days were a blur for me,” said Matt’s father Tom Burchett. I didn't know if I could go on without him. I didn’t know if I wanted to.” 

Tom said that in the days following his son’s death, he worried that he would eventually forget the sound of Matt’s voice. Then he had the idea to look on his phone for any past voicemails. Luckily, he found some, three of which he played during the funeral. Then he called his son’s phone and left a final message for him. 

“Hey Matt, it’s me Dad. I guess you can’t answer right now,” he said. “I just wanted to call and thank you for all the things you’ve done for mom and I. It seems like every time you dropped in you’d find something we need taken care of and get it done. We want you to know how proud of you we are, not just for all you’ve accomplished, but most of all for what a kind, caring, thoughtful, generous person you are.” 

“Call us back when you get a chance. Love you, Dad.” 

Burchett had recently joined the Draper Fire Department after being part of the Unified Fire Authority for over twenty years. 

Chief Clint Smith of the Draper Fire Department, who knew Burchett for his entire career, described him as “a man of courage and incredible leadership.” 

“As a captain Matt excelled within the organization. He was given other assignments because he had proven time and time again that he was reliable and efficient but most important, he was knowledgeable and had the skills to accomplish the task,” said Smith. 

Smith also paid tribute to Burchett’s wife Heather, who is left with their young son Griffin. “Behind every great man is an even greater woman. And Heather you are truly remarkable. Thank you for the opportunity to share him with us. Thank you for the support that you offered him.”

Likewise, Burchett’s sisters, Monica Brinkerhoff and Gina Zipp, recognized Heather in their eulogy which they delivered. 

“We want to express our gratitude to Heather who has brought so much joy to Matt’s life… We’ve been amazed by her strength and courage even in the face of this tragedy,” they said. 

A fundraiser has been started to help Burchett’s family through the Utah Firefighters Emerald Society. Those wishing to donate can do so by visiting

Before the funeral, the Burchett family also released a statement through the Unified Fire Authority, saying that their request to those wishing to help was to “take the opportunity to hug those around you and hold them tight and don’t take our fragile lives for granted.”