LEHI, Utah – The passing of Draper Battalion Chief, Matthew Burchett, acts as a sobering reminder of just how dangerous fighting wildfires can be.
“You never want to see tragedy strike, and it’s a very sad thing that happened,” said Marshall Phillips, a wildland firefighter with Lehi Fire Dept. #83.
Phillips says depending on where the fire is and the type of terrain that it’s in, it can be an extremely dangerous assignment. He’s been a wildland firefighter for more than a decade now. He was recently called up to Colorado to help battle wildfires for two weeks.
“We were assigned structure protection for the majority of it. You start at six in the morning, you get off at 10 at night. There’s no day offs between day one and day 14," he said.
Crews worked tirelessly in the air and on the ground, trained extensively in safety procedures to protect people and property.
“Our job is to try not to get into any close calls, and prevent close calls from happening,” said Phillips.
Phillips credits experienced leaders for keeping him out of harm’s way. The hardest part of being on the job for him is leaving his family.
“A lot of things can happen in 14 days. It’s always in the back of your head – I hope they’re doing ok. You’re not there to help them," Phillips said.
Despite the risk, the thrill of helping others in extreme situations keeps Phillips coming back.
“It’s a physically demanding job. And it’s a mentally demanding job but it’s also very rewarding. It’s the greatest job there is. That’s what gets us out of bed. Trying to help citizens out,” he said.