‘Our hearts ache’ for Utah firefighter killed in Mendocino Complex, Gov. Brown says

The latest firefighter killed while on duty at a California wildfire was identified Tuesday as a fire chief deployed from Utah, according to his city’s fire department and mayor.

Draper City Fire Department Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett, 42, died Monday fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire, the department said in a Tuesday news release shared on Facebook.

Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement: “Firefighters from across the nation – and world – have selflessly battled California’s massive wildfires, and sadly today we mourn the loss of one of those heroes from Draper, Utah, Chief Matthew Burchett. Our hearts ache for his wife and young son, family members, loved ones, colleagues with the Draper City Fire Department and the entire State of Utah.”

It was the first fatality in connection to the Ranch Fire, a 300,000-acre blaze that has been burning since July 27. Cal Fire confirmed the death Monday evening, but did not identify the victim at the time.

Burchett’s death fighting the Ranch Fire was announced by Draper Mayor Troy Walker at a Tuesday morning press conference.

“These men are American heroes. They literally stand in the fire to help other people,” Walker said.

The city of Draper deployed five firefighters to California on Aug. 2, the fire department said in the release.

Burchett had joined Draper City Fire Department in May. Previously, Burchett had served with Salt Lake City’s Unified Fire Authority for 20 years, according to the news release. Burchett had extensive experience in wildland and structure fire, the city said on social media.

Burchett leaves behind a wife and a young son. His funeral services are pending.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert also gave a statement.

“He gave everything to defend the lives of others,” Herbert said.

Two other firefighters have been injured fighting the Mendocino Complex, according to Cal Fire’s incident report Tuesday morning.

More than 3,100 fire personnel are fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire. The Ranch Fire is 68 percent contained at more than 305,000 acres, according to Cal Fire, while the River Fire is fully contained after burning nearly 50,000 acres.

Flags at the California Capitol will be flown at half-staff in honor of Burchett.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related stories from Sacramento Bee