Thousands gathered Monday in West Valley to remember Draper firefighter Matthew Burchett, who died last week while battling the massive Mendocino Complex Fire in California. He was 42.
Family, friends and fellow firefighters eulogized Burchett during the public memorial service at the Maverik Center on a day when Gov. Herbert ordered flags to fly at half-staff on Monday for Burchett's funeral.
Draper Fire Department Chief Clint Smith said Burchett embodied the best qualities of the profession.
"The fire profession is said to be a noble profession, and I believe that 100 percent. But it takes an even nobler man to fill that role, and there was none, in my mind, more noble than Matt," he said.
Burchett had served as Draper's Battalion Chief since May. Before that he worked for the Unified Fire Authority for two decades and had extensive experience in wildland fires.
Smith said he felt lucky to have recruited Burchett to their team and said Burchett had the full support of his wife, Heather, and their son, Griff.
"When it came to priorities, Matt was a hard worker, a detailed worker," said Smith. "He kept a house of order. But there was never any question where Matt's priorities were, and his number one priority was his family."
Gina Zipp, Burchett's sister, remembered her brother as a humble, kind and generous man who put service to others before all else.
"Our hearts are aching with your parting from this earth. The thought of another day without your smile, the sound of your voice or your presence, is more than we can bear," she said.
Burchett and four other Draper firefighters left Utah on Aug. 2 to help battle California's largest recorded wildfire ever, which has burned more than 398,000 acres north of San Francisco. Burchett was struck by a falling tree on Aug. 13. He died later that day at a nearby hospital.
A total of six firefighters have died battling California wildfires this summer. Three firefighters have died in the Carr Fire and two died fighting a fire near Yosemite National Park.