Firefighter who died battling Mendocino Complex fires mourned by Utah town

A town about 20 miles south from the Utah capital mourned a local firefighter who died Monday evening while battling the Mendocino Complex fires, a set of dual fires that have burned more acres than any other in California’s history.

The firefighter, Battalion Chief Matthew Burchett, worked for the Draper City Fire Department, and was one of five team members from the city’s fire department sent to battle the Northern California blaze, a post on the city’s Facebook page said.

“As you can imagine, our hearts are heavy as we digest this tragic news,” Draper Mayor Troy Walker said in a statement Tuesday. “Last night, we lost one of our Draper firefighters, a true hero.”

The Ranch fire, the larger of the two fires, continued to gain ground on Monday night into Tuesday morning, growing to about 305,500 acres, up by 4,500 acres from the night before. It continued its trajectory northbound into the Mendocino National Forest.

In total, both fires have burned through 349,890 acres and are 68 percent contained, though the River fire is no longer moving, a Cal Fire press release said Tuesday morning.

As the Ranch continues to push into the Mendocino National Forest, the area’s thick vegetation and mountainous terrain remains an ongoing hurdle for crews on the ground, said Ian McDonald, a spokesperson for the Mendocino Complex fires.

Bulldozers will prioritize strengthening lines along the area’s Gilmore Ridge, moving north through the 2012 Mill fire scar toward Davis Flat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Construction of new containment lines along Cabbage Patch, Bushy Camp and the Noel Ridges areas will continue, the agency said in a press release Monday morning.

The Lake Pillsbury and Stonyford communities were also a priority, Cal Fire said.

“We’re going to continue working on those northeast and northwest corners,” McDonald said. “The plan is to really secure those corners to be able to concentrate on the northern portion of the fire and pinch it off.”

Mandatory evacuations remained in place for areas near the Lake-Mendocino and Lake-Colusa county lines on Monday, as well as land north of the Mendocino National Forest. A total of 1,025 structures were threatened by the Ranch Fire Monday morning, including homes surrounding Lake Pillsbury.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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