Utah firefighter killed battling California blaze

In this photo taken Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, a fire burns next to Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in northwest Montana. The fire, which was started by lightning on Saturday night, has forced the evacuation of the Lake McDonald Lodge and a nearby campground. (Chris Peterson/Hungry Horse News via AP)

LAKEPORT, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say a Utah firefighter has died battling the largest recorded blaze in California history. Authorities say the man died Monday night at a hospital after he was injured at the site of the Mendocino Complex fire north of San Francisco. 

The firefighter was identified as being with the Draper City Fire Department.

“Our hearts are very heavy this morning as we digest what is tragic news for us. Last night we lost one of our Draper City firefighters. He was a true hero,” Draper City Mayor Troy Walker said in a press conference Tuesday morning.

The firefighter has been identified as 42-year-old Draper Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett. Burchett started work at the Draper City Fire Department May 2018, prior to which he spent 20 years working for Unified Fire Authority, according to a Draper City press release. Burchett is survived by his wife and their young son.

Our hearts are breaking as we announce the loss of one of Draper City’s firefighters in the Mendocino Fire last night. Words cannot explain how it feels to lose a true hero. We sent five of our team members to California to battle these terrible fires. A very sad day in Draper,” Draper City tweeted Tuesday morning.

Firefighters from all over the country have been helping California battle a series of deadly and devastating wildfires in recent weeks that have spread through drought-parched forests and rural communities.

Six firefighters have died in those wildfires.

The deadliest fire, the Carr Fire, has left eight people dead, including three firefighters.

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A boat taking off from Apgar heads across Lake McDonald on Monday morning, Aug. 13, 2018. Three fires burning in the park have reduced visibility and air quality. (Brenda Ahearn/The Daily Inter Lake via AP)

8:15 p.m.

Authorities say a firefighter has been killed battling the largest record blaze in California history.

State fire officials say the firefighter died Monday at the site of the Mendocino Complex fire north of San Francisco.

Details haven’t been released.

Six firefighters have now died in connection with a wave of massive wildfires that struck Northern California in the past weeks.

The deadliest wildfire, the Carr Fire, has left a total of eight people dead, including three firefighters.

Two firefighters have died fighting a fire near Yosemite National Park.

The Mendocino Complex — actually twin fires being fought together — has burned for more than two weeks. The fire has burned nearly 150 homes and about 547 square miles (1,415 square kilometers) of brush and forest. That’s an area larger than the city of Los Angeles.

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4:45 p.m.

A relatively light wildfire season across the Northern Rockies has roared to life as firefighters scrambled to try to stamp out more than 30 new blazes in recent days.

Authorities reported Monday that several new large fires have taken hold in Montana after a recent heat wave brought triple-digit temperatures.

That includes a 3-square-mile fire that has triggered an evacuation order for residents of 15 houses southwest of the town of Ennis and a fire in Glacier National Park that forced evacuations around Lake McDonald

Fires have charred a combined 30 square miles in Montana so far this year. By comparison, more than 2,400 square miles burned last year.

In Colorado, a wildfire in the southwestern portion of the state ignited by lightning July 29 had burned across 34 square miles (88 square kilometers) by Monday.

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11:00 a.m.

A wildfire is forcing evacuations in the most heavily-trafficked area of Glacier National Park and has destroyed an unknown number of structures around Lake McDonald.

The National Park Service said the 25-site Sprague Creek campground was being evacuated Monday, a day after the fast-moving fire forced the evacuation of 82 rooms at the historic Lake McDonald Lodge.

A second campground with 87 sites and some private residences also have been evacuated. A portion of the Going-to-the-Sun-Road remained closed to traffic.

The fire is one of several started in the park by lightning on Saturday evening. Windy, dry conditions on Sunday caused the blaze to spread rapidly.

Park officials had no estimate on the fire’s size.

It’s the second year in a row that wildfires prompted evacuations from Lake McDonald.

8:30 a.m.

A growing wildfire in Glacier National Park in northern Montana has forced the evacuation of an historic lodge and a campground.

The National Park Service says the Lake McDonald Lodge and the Avalanche Creek Campground were evacuated Sunday night and a portion of the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed to traffic. Some private residences in the area also were evacuated.

The fire was one of several started in the park by lightning on Saturday evening. Windy, dry conditions on Sunday led to the fire growing Sunday.

Park officials had no estimate on the size of the fire, which is burning on the north side of Lake McDonald. The tourist areas on the south side of the lake are not affected by the fire.

Updated Aug. 14, 11 a.m. to include the name of Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett.

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1 Comment

  • mesaman August 14, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    The captain was a true hero. He put his life on the line for the safety of others and he and his family paid the supreme price.

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