Thousands bid final farewell to fallen Utah firefighter Matthew Burchett

Thousands of firefighters and law enforcement officers from the state of Utah and across the west filled the Maverik Center in West Valley City Monday morning, bidding a final farewell to fallen Draper Battalion Chief Matthew 'Matty' Burchett. Photo: Gephardt Daily/Monico Garza/SLC Scanner

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah, Aug. 20, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — Thousands of firefighters and law enforcement officers from the state of Utah and across the west filled the Maverik Center in West Valley City Monday morning, bidding a final farewell to fallen Draper Battalion Chief Matthew ‘Matty’ Burchett.

Burchett, 42, died in the line of duty Aug. 13 while joining other Utah firefighters in battling the Mendocino Complex Fires burning in northern California. According to incident commanders, Burchett was fatally injured after being struck by a falling tree.

The program began with the Honor Guard and Unified Fire Authority Pipes & Drums entering the Maverik Center and a reading of the Firefighter’s Prayer by UFA Captain Anthony Widdison.

Clint Smith, Fire Chief with Draper City Fire Department, conducted the service and also offered his own comments. “Matt chose what he was well-prepared and skilled for, in the position,” Smith said. “He had what we needed for our organization, he was the perfect fit for what we needed to accomplish.” He concluded his remarks by saying: “Matt, find a great spot on the hill where you can look and watch over us. Warn us of pending danger and the fires that lie ahead. Guide us to safety. Take our hands and show us the way to the escape routes. I love you, brother. And I will miss you.”

Matt Burchett’s sisters Monica Brinkerhoff and Gina Zipp, spoke next. “Our deepest gratitude goes out to those who serve our community for the greater good,” Zipp said. “Dearest Matthew, our hearts are aching with your parting from this earth. The thought of another day without your smile and your presence is more than we can bear. It is so hard to accept you are gone from this world. We know we must continue and carry forward the gifts you have given us through your life.”

Zipp described the siblings’ upbringing in Midway. “You had a way of helping us see what was possible, what we might be capable of,” she said. Zipp described how Burchett also worked for Solitude Ski Patrol while learning how to fight wildfires. Burchett was with the Unified Fire Authority for nearly 20 years before recently accepting the Battalion Chief position with Draper Fire Department, Zipp said. “After you graduated in 1994, you discovered your passion for service when you were hired with Salt Lake County Wildland as a firefighter,” she said. “You quickly excelled and in 1998, you worked the front lines with Logan Hotshots. There you developed an expertise in fighting forest fires, something that would set you apart for the rest of your career. During the winters, on your time off from fighting fires, your love for skiing lured you to working for Solitude Ski Patrol. The brotherhood of the ski patrol gave you a taste of what was yet to come in your future career.”

Zipp also spoke about the year 1999, when Burchett married his wife Heather, and 2011, when their son Griffin was born, including the many things Burchett taught his son, including how to make a “gourmet lemonade stand.” She continued: “You loved to be outdoors, and never missed a chance to take us with you — to ski, hike, run, fish, ride a bike or anything that involved fresh air and mountains,” Zipp said. “We know this is what fed your passion and drive to fight forest fires — you loved to be out there, in nature, among the mountains and the trees, being brave and helping people at the same time… You were humble, quiet; you did things because you were called to do them and because they were right, not for attention. Matty, we love you, and we will only try to be stronger now that you are not on this journey with us. We will celebrate your life and will cherish what you offered us.”

Fire Chief Smith, spoke on behalf of Heather Burchett, Matt Burchett’s wife. “She expressed that she knew having been married to him for 20 years and spending so much time with him, she knew what a great person he was. She experienced it every day,” Smith said. “But she has been amazed to see how Matt touched so many lives. It will probably never truly be known how much Matt affected the life of people around us.”

Tom Burchett, Matt Burchett’s father, also spoke.”Losing Matt has left Rose and I overwhelmed, with grief, sorrow, emptiness,” he said. “We want him back so badly. Gradually, I started to feel a little flicker of strength, or hope. Healing will only come as I am able to chose to be strong, step up and do what needs to be done, so Matt would be proud of me, as we were proud of him.”

Tom Burchett played three voicemails that his son left for him, saying he was so happy that he had the voicemails so he could still hear the fallen firefighter’s voice. “Those three are so representative of him calling, dropping by, including me in things that he did. One of Matt’s expressions if he came close to a brush with tears is, ‘I’ve almost lost my marbles…’ Tom Burchett then left a voicemail for his son. “We want you to know how proud of you were are, not just for all you’ve accomplished, but for what a kind, wonderful person you are. Well I guess before I lose my marbles I’d better let you go. Call us back when you get a chance, love you, Dad.”

From the Maverick Center a funeral procession led by dozens of police motorcycles and firefighting vehicles will escort Burchett’s flag-draped casket to Eastlawn Memorial Hills Cemetery in Provo where he will be buried in a private family ceremony.

The Firefighter’s Prayer, read at the beginning of the service, says:

When I’m called to duty god
wherever flames may rage
give me strength to save a life
whatever be its age

Help me to embrace a little child
before it is too late
or save an older person from
the horror of that fate

Enable me to be alert
to hear the weakest shout
and quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out

I want to fill my calling and
to give the best in me
to guard my neighbor and
protect his property

And if according to your will
I have to lose my life
bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife.

To see more images from Monday’s memorial services, please click on the photo gallery below.


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