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Memorial event held in Herriman for fallen Utah firefighters

Firefighters attend a memorial for fallen Utah firefighters on display in Herriman on Saturday. (Jack Grimm, KSL-TV)


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HERRIMAN — A memorial service in Herriman Saturday morning honored and remembered all the Utah firefighters who have died in the line of duty.

We've all heard "Amazing Grace" before, but there's nothing like hearing it on bagpipes. Clint Smith knows that feeling.

"Hearing the bagpipes is one of the things that just really gets me to the core," he said.

Smith is the fire chief of the Draper Fire Department and has been to more firefighter funerals than he'd like to admit.

"I was astounded at how many of them I knew personally," he said while looking at some of their pictures.

The pictures of some of those firefighters shared the stage with Smith during the memorial event. The event was to honor all 70 Utah firefighters who have died in the line of duty. It's to help kick off National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Week.

After each name was read, a bell was rung to honor those firefighters. It's a tradition for this type of memorial service.

"We try really hard not to forget the ultimate sacrifice people have made," said Aaron Lance, a firefighter with the Unified Fire Authority. "Even though I don't know everybody, we memorialized today, I do, in a way, because of the fire service. They're a brother or a sister to me."

Among those being remembered were Layton firefighter Kendall Bryant, Springville firefighter Phillip Whitney and Draper firefighter Matthew Burchett. Smith knew Burchett and his family well.

"Absolutely. Matt was one of the best," said Smith.

Part of remembering firefighters, though, is to also think about those who died by suicide. It's a serious issue within the fire service.

"My early years in the fire service, it was all about brawn and really not showing emotion," said Smith, who has spent 28 years in the fire service. "But there's no doubt, the things we see and we're asked to do, they affect us. There's no way that they can't."

There are more resources now for firefighters, and talking about mental health is more accepted in the ranks than it used to be.

"I have actually been part of seeing that change finally start to come about," said Smith. He feels there is still more work to do on that issue, but it's worth it.

Anything to avoid more names being read next year.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Crisis Hotlines

  • Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
  • Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
  • Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386

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Alex Cabrero

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