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South Valley Journal

Dominic Burchett becomes Unified Fire Authority’s 14th fire chief

Apr 30, 2022 09:52AM ● By Peri Kinder

By Peri Kinder | [email protected]

When Dominic Burchett was sworn in as Unified Fire Authority’s 14th fire chief in the agency’s 100-year history, he took over the reins for Utah's largest fire agency, serving 15 communities from Emigration Canyon to Eagle Mountain.

His appointment follows the retirement of Dan Petersen, who served as fire chief since 2017, a man Burchett has worked with and respects.

“Chief Petersen taught me the value of collaboration,” Burchett said. “He helped me understand the value of working with partners and stakeholders, searching to find the best answers for the community.”

Burchett, a Utah native, has extensive fire experience that stems from more than 20 years serving Salt Lake County, most recently as assistant chief of support services. He was responsible for the daily operations of fire prevention, IT, logistics, and special enforcement. He also led the seismic retrofitting of all UFA stations and helped with several station rebuilding projects.

His fire career began in 1997 when his brother, Matthew Burchett, took a seasonal wildland job with Salt Lake County.

“He came home dirty and stinky, and I was in,” Burchett said. “I was able to be outside and work with people I really respected. I was with my brother and other people who were working hard. I followed wherever he would take me.”

When Matthew died in August 2018, working on a fire line of the Mendocino Complex Fire in California, Burchett lost his brother and best friend.

“We grew up incredibly close,” Burchett said. “The healing process for me was a lot of therapy and people helping me through it. I think because of him I was able to step outside my comfort zone. He’s there kind of guiding me down certain roads and I feel his presence in different situations.”

Over the years, Burchett has taken opportunities for growth that helped him step up the chain of leadership. He moved through the ranks as a firefighter, wildland specialist, paramedic, captain, and division chief.

As the new fire chief, Burchett has three main areas of focus; the health and well-being of fire personnel, understanding the communities served by UFA, and continuous improvement for himself and the agency.

He said, historically, fire departments have acted in a reactionary way to issues such as suicide, PTSD, and burnout, dealing with problems as they come up. He created a video that detailed his own struggles in the hope it will create an open dialogue about mental wellness.

“I want to look at these things more holistically and focus on prevention,” he said. “There’s a lot of responsibility on my shoulders and I want to do what’s best for my people. My focus is really providing the best service for the community and being the best fire chief.”

Over the last five years, Burchett said UFA has come a long way under the previous fire chief. Building on Petersen’s foundation, he doesn’t need to do a big overhaul of the department, just implement small changes to keep moving the organization forward.

“We have to be in tune with what our communities’ needs are. Our crews have to know what their communities want and how to provide that,” Burchett said.

With nearly 700 employees, UFA serves more than 420,000 residents in Salt Lake and Utah counties. In 2020, UFA responded to 31,226 emergency incidents with 59,056 unit responses from 24 fire stations.

“He has some big shoes to fill,” UFA Board Chair and Holladay Mayor Robert Dahle said. “That said, we are certain, given the full support of our board and the backing of both civilian and sworn members of this incredible organization, he cannot help but be successful.”

Burchett lives with his wife, Jillian, and their five children. He enjoys being outside, traveling, and participating in IRONMAN competitions, which he’s completed five times. He owns a small business and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Utah.