Brendan Burns is Manchester's youngest fire captain
LONDONDERRY - Growing up in Merrimack, Brendan Burns was a frequent visitor at the fire station across the street from his house.
"I think most kids at some point in their childhood wanted to be a firefighter," the Londonderry resident said.
After graduating from Merrimack High School in 1994, the son of a former police officer began working toward that dream. In December 2005, the Manchester Fire Department hired him, and in March 1996, the 19-year-old Burns began working as a city firefighter.
Seventeen years later, Burns is the department's youngest fire captain.
He's seen many changes in the force over the years.
"I think our call volume has pretty much doubled over that time period," the married father of three said. "And these days, I think we're doing more with fewer people."
As a modern-day firefighter, each day brings its own unique challenges, Burns said.
"Back in the day, most of our calls would be for actual fires and other emergencies," he noted. "But nowadays, we've kind of become the people you call to help you when there's no one else."
Despite his hectic work schedule, Burns makes it a point to give back whenever he can.
An avid volunteer, Burns supports dozens of area organizations: he coaches a Special Olympics team, coordinates the local boot drive for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and serves on the town of Londonderry's Public Safety Dispatch Committee, among many other things.
"I think when you find something you want to do, you just make the time for it," Burns said. "Luckily my wife has been very understanding and when she can, she's often there helping, too."
The lessons learned from former high school football coach Joe Raycraft are lessons he carried into adulthood.
"I really wasn't the best football player," he recalled, noting that during his senior year he almost got kicked off the team when he found himself failing one of his courses.
That's when Joe laid down the law.
"Whether I played or not, that really wasn't going to affect the team," Burns said. "But Joe was always very tough on us. As a supervisor, I can really respect that now."
As the captain of the Engine 9 Fire Station on Calef Road, Burns now oversees eight firefighters and three lieutenants.
He's also worked hard over the past 18 months to make the Manchester Fire Department's car seat safety inspection program a reality.
"Before then, it placed a huge financial burden on the town: getting the seats and sending our guys to a week's worth of training," Burns said.
In the end, Burns and three of his colleagues decided to go get trained on their own time and declined payment for the hours spent in training.
Federal grants and donations acquired from area businesses further assisted their efforts.
To date, the program has inspected 200 residents' car seats . and counting.
"It costs our fire department nothing and it's also the perfect opportunity for residents to come and visit the fire station," Burns said.