NH FFs mourn 'untimely' death of assistant fire chief

Manchester Assistant Fire Chief Brendan Burns, 45, was reported missing on Wednesday and his death was announced later that night


Oct. 8, 2020, UPDATE: The medical examiner’s office reported that Burns died by suicide. Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan issued a statement that, at the time of his disappearance, Burns was under investigation by Londonderry police for sexual assault, as reported by the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Paul Feely
The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester

MANCHESTER, N.H. — City fire officials announced late Wednesday that Manchester Assistant Fire Chief Brendan Burns has died. He was 45.

Manchester officials announced the death of Assistant Fire Chief Brendan M. Burns, 45, on Wednesday, shortly after Burns was reported missing by his family. (Photo/The City of Manchester, NH)
Manchester officials announced the death of Assistant Fire Chief Brendan M. Burns, 45, on Wednesday, shortly after Burns was reported missing by his family. (Photo/The City of Manchester, NH)

A news release from the Manchester Fire Department refers to Burns’ death as “untimely.”

Burns was reported missing by his family on Wednesday, according to the statement.

“After a brief investigation he was located by local authorities and we are grateful for their efforts,” the news release says. “We extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and the members of the Manchester Fire Department as we mourn his loss. We kindly ask that you respect the Burns’ family privacy at this time.”

No further information was available Wednesday night.

Burns joined the Manchester Fire Department on March, 11, 1996. He was promoted to assistant chief on Sept. 29, 2019.

Attempts to reach Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan for comment Wednesday night were unsuccessful.

“The passing of Assistant Fire Chief Brendan Burns is a tragic loss,” said Mayor Joyce Craig in a statement. “Please keep his wife, three children, family, friends and members of Manchester Fire Department in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Burns was promoted to asst. fire chief a year ago, after former asst. Chief Rich McGahey retired.

“He was such a great guy,” said McGahey, reached by phone in Florida. “I’m stunned, really taken aback. He was such a well-respected guy around the city and the department. It’s huge loss, and my heart goes out to his family.”

“This is tragic news,” said Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann. “He was doing yeoman’s work for the department. He was a hard-working young man, only 45. This is a big loss for Manchester, and devastating news for the fire department. A terrible loss.”

“I’m saddened to learn of the passing of Assistant Chief Burns,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas. “He was an integral part of the department and his service to Manchester stretched back decades. Please keep his family in your thoughts.”

Growing up in Merrimack, Burns was a frequent visitor at the fire station across the street from his house, according to a 2013 story in the Union Leader.

“I think most kids at some point in their childhood wanted to be a firefighter,” Burns told the Union Leader.

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 became the department’s youngest fire captain.

An avid volunteer, over the years Burns supported dozens of area organizations: he coached a Special Olympics team, coordinated the local boot drive for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and served on the town of Londonderry’s Public Safety Dispatch Committee, among other things.

Burns is credited with implementing a car seat safety inspection program in the Manchester Fire Department.

“Too many times people would come to the fire stations throughout the city looking for assistance, and we either had to turn them away because we weren’t certified or direct them to the police department where there may or may not be a technician available depending on the time of day or prior commitments,” Burns told the Union Leader in 2013. “Through help of the Manchester Police Department, we implemented our own program in which we have at least one and often multiple firefighters certified to perform the inspections on duty at all times.”

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©2020 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)

 

It is with profound sadness that we announce the untimely passing of Assistant Chief Brendan M. Burns. We kindly ask that the press and public respect the privacy of the Burns' family at this time.

Posted by City of Manchester, NH Fire Department on Wednesday, September 30, 2020
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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