Community dedicates memorial bench for Draper City firefighter killed in California wildfire

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DRAPER (ABC4 News) – One year since Draper City Fire Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett died while battling the Mendocino Complex Wildfire in California, his name is being honored with a dedicated bench at Maple Hollow Trailhead.

Draper City established its own fire department in 2017. But only a year after, it experienced a tragedy that impacted the entire country.

“The past year, to say the least, has been a challenging year for us. But it’s been a growing year for us as well. There’s no doubt that having gone through the experience that we did of losing Matt was one of the most difficult challenges for us as a department,” said Chief Clint Smith.

Chief Smith said his friendship with Burchett spanned more than two decades, dating back to when they both worked for Unified Fire Authority.

“My favorite memory of Matt is his smile. Any of the pictures that you’ve seen over the past year that depicts Matt, you’ve seen that contagious smile he had on his face that was always there. Matt was a very positive person all the time and always looked to uplift those around him,” said Chief Smith.

Smith fought to hold back tears during Friday morning’s ceremony but explained that firefighters willingly make the ultimate sacrifice despite knowing how dangerous the job can be.

“Matt went out to California, put his life on the line for the service of others,” he said. “During a time when they were faced with the most devastating of fires, he used his expertise and his knowledge to help protect those people.”

City officials said the bench was made possible through donations by Superior Equipment and Smith Steel Works. The design and build of the bench were completed by Critical Laser.

According to a press release from the city, Burchett’s family requested the bench to be placed at Maple Hollow Trailhead because of its proximity to where he lived and where his family loved to spend time together.

“This is Griff’s (Burchett’s son) bus stop. I know I’ll be sitting on it once in a while when I pick him up or drop him off,” said Tom, Chief Burchett’s father. “I hope I’m sitting there someday when somebody visits and says, ‘Who is Matt? Who’s that guy?’ I’ll be so happy, cause I’ll give them an earful.” 

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