SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah, Aug. 15, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — The family of Matthew Burchett showed up to honor him Wednessday evening as his body was flown back to Utah by military transport plane.
Burchett, 42, is the Draper Fire Department Battalion Chief who died Monday in the line of duty, struck by a falling tree as he battled the Mendocino Complex Fire in northern California.
The “family” on hand Wednesday included blood relatives, friends who knew him, and a larger family of firefighters who respected Burchett’s life of service and the sacrifice in his death.
“There are no borders,” said Fire Chief Julian Maldonado, visiting with his crew from Mexico to train in heavy equipment usage. Maldonado insisted on watching the honor procession that took Burchett’s remains from the airport to the funeral home in South Jordan.
“We just want to pay tribute to this firefighter that lost his life,” Maldonado said through a translator. “We want to be here with the family.”
Cory Taylor, a Lehi Fire Dept. engineer, waited with Maldonado and his crew near Interstate 215 and 700 West.
“It’s emotional, honestly,” Taylor told Gephardt Daily. “It’s great to see people here not only from Utah, but from other states and countries come to honor a fallen hero. He was doing what he loved, to serve and protect … To support a fallen brother — this is something to be a part of. There’s camaraderie here.”
Taylor wished he could send a message to Burchett’s family.
“Our heart aches for the loss, this entire family, this brotherhood we have,” he said. “Let us support us through this. We are here for you.”
At the airport, friends, family and dignitaries had checked in to await the plane’s arrival. A bagpipe player who would be part of the solemn ceremony warmed up.
Crowds waited, and in time the military plane appeared in the sky, and grew larger as it approached the tarmac. Uniformed officials lined up at the back of the plane, where a hatch opened. Bagpipes played, and troops exited on a ramp.
An official took the hand of a small boy, and walked him into the cargo hold. A few minutes later, the same official carried the small boy, now crumpled over his shoulder for support, back out.
In time, a procession carried out a flag-draped coffin, and eased it into the back of a hearse. Family, friends and officials shared hugs, wiped away tears, and talked.
At about 8:45 p.m., the hearse left, followed by officials and family members in other vehicles, headed to a mortuary in South Jordan.
Firefighters and community members wishing to show respect and thanks lined the route.