WILDFIRES

When One Firefighter Is Hurt, The Entire Brotherhood Feels It

Aug 14, 2018, 5:28 PM | Updated: 9:54 pm

DRAPER, Utah – There aren’t many jobs out there like being a firefighter.

“It’s not just a job. It’s not a 9-to-5. It’s a lifestyle, it’s a brotherhood,” said David Ulibarri, who recently retired from the Unified Fire Authority. “You feel that cause and there’s something you can’t replicate.”

Being a part of that firefighting brotherhood is something Ulibarri will always cherish.

One thing about brotherhoods, though, is bad news will spread faster than a fire itself.

“We got some bad news last night. We lost one of our brothers,” said Ulibarri while doing his best to hold back tears.

When Matt Burchett was killed fighting a wildfire in California Monday night, it seemed as if firefighters here in Utah knew right away.

“Within, I would say 10 minutes, I had over 60 texts,” said Jay Stevens, who is still a firefighter with Unified Fire Authority.

However, even with all those text messages, Stevens said he still couldn’t believe it.

“He was one of the top guys, and for this to happen to him, it just shows, these are dangerous fires,” said Stevens.


“It’s just hard and we’re going to join together and we’ll help them through. It’s just sad,” said Ulibarri. “He’s a good man. Good father and good husband. Just hurts.”


Maybe that danger firefighters face together is what brings them so close to each other.

“It’s a different type of job,” said Unified Fire Authority Captain Jay Torgerson. “We’re together for 48 hours at a time. We’re living together for those 48 hours. So, not only are we working together and going out on calls together, helping people who are calling us for help, but we’re cooking together and cleaning together and doing chores together. It’s just like a house.”

“We live together and we go into burning buildings together. We go into unspeakable situations together as well,” said Ulibarri. “We have these risks that we take as firefighters. That’s why we’re a brotherhood. We just answer that bell whether it’s 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon, it doesn’t matter.”

Being close to each other also allowed them to get to know each other.

Ulibarri remembered when Burchett first started showing up for wildland firefighting classes.

“Right out of the box,” said Ulibarri with a laugh. “Fresh, crisp uniform and could barely grow a beard. But he became our top guy. When I knew Matt was on the scene, I was like, we’re dialed in. We’re good. This guy knows his stuff and he was one of our key go-to guys.”

It was also the dangers they often faced together that made them happy for each other’s successes.

For instance, when Stevens didn’t get the Draper battalion chief job that Burchett got, he was thrilled.

“Somebody asked me when he got it if I was upset. I was not,” said Stevens. “One of the other guys I work with was up for it. We both interviewed for it, and then when we found out Matt had tested for it, we’re both like, oh, if we would have known Matt had tested for it, I wouldn’t have tested. Because he’s clearly the guy.”

However, that was also why when one of them was hurt, or worse, they all felt it.

“It’s just hard and we’re going to join together and we’ll help them through. It’s just sad,” said Ulibarri. “He’s a good man. Good father and good husband. Just hurts.”

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When One Firefighter Is Hurt, The Entire Brotherhood Feels It