Utah mother who lost son in wild fire has message for Matt Burchett’s family

The mother of fallen Utah firefighter Joe Thurston, who died five years ago fighting a fire in Arizona, had words of comfort for the family of Matt Burchett, who died in the line of duty on Tuesday, August 14, 2018.

(KUTV) — It’s been more than five years since a Utah firefighter died in the line of duty.

Joe Thurston was one of 19 who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.

He was known as "Utah" until the day he died. Hollywood told his story in the 2017 movie "Only the Brave."

“Sometimes it seems like a different life, but sometimes it seems like today," said Gayemarie Ekker, Thurston’s mother. "It’s tough."

Ekker was the last Utah parent to lose a son while fighting a fire. That is, until this week, when she learned Draper City Fire Battalion Chief Matt Burchett died when a tree fell on him fighting a fire in Northern California.

“It’s like the water going down the drain, there’s no way to stop that that feeling of loss” Ekker said.

Plaques, pictures, statues and flags remind the family of what happened but Ekker says the public can quickly forget, adding “for our firefighter that was just lost, my sorrow is especially deep for that reason.”

But for Burchett’s loved ones, Ekker says help is close by.

“It’s the love and support of family and friends of those who have been down this road," she said.

So when the smoke clears, there’s something we all can do, which is something, many times, we don’t want to.

“We don’t say anything because we don’t know what to say, but give it a shot. It’s important” Ekker said.

Before our Tuesday interview, Ekker wrote down some thoughts for the Burchett family:

In this dreadful tragedy his family and friends will find friends who offer love and support. Friends they haven’t even met yet and that’s the silver lining. The love and support that all of us who are so grateful for a firefighters’ service and saddened by their sacrifice and thank their families for allowing us to share in that sorrow because as we all know sorrow is less when it’s shared.

A fund to support the Burchett family has been established online here.

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