Firefighter’s Widow Sues Over Mendocino Complex Fire Death

Matthew Burchett

SACRAMENTO (AP) — The widow of a Utah firefighter who was killed when a supertanker dropped nearly 20,000 gallons of fire retardant near his position fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire is suing Cal Fire and the aircraft company for alleged negligence.

State investigators found 42-year-old battalion chief Matthew Burchett of Draper, Utah, died last August when fire retardant was dropped from an aircraft flying barely above the treetops because spotters mistakenly sent it on a route too close to the ground.

The retardant struck with such force it uprooted an 87-foot tree that fell on Burchett.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday by Burchett’s widow and son says the firefighter was in a “safe zone” when the retardant was dropped.

Cal Fire said it could not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

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