Mark James Burns dedicated his life putting other peoples’ wants and needs above his own. His selfless character allowed him to make a positive impact to almost everyone he knew, especially his family and friends. He was known for his wisdom, determination, inspiration, and witty sense of humor. Mark often appeared to be gruff or blunt, but if you were a good person he would do absolutely anything for you.
Mark found his passion at an early age after becoming a volunteer firefighter at age 16. He was hired full-time by Jackson County Fire District #3 in July 1971 and was soon promoted to engineer and then captain, setting the gold standard for others in these roles. Medford Fire-Rescue hired Mark as a shift battalion chief in 1982. In 1990, he served as the training chief and, in 1991, as the operations chief.
Mark earned a fire science technology degree at Rogue Community College and was a graduate of the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program. During his career, he was responsible for the Oregon State Fire Marshal Region 8 Hazardous Materials Response Team, structural liaison on Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team, and a consultant for Emergency Services Consulting International. Mark is probably best known as a firefighter who knew where the problem on a fire scene was going to be, not just what was happening at that moment. Mark had an instinctive ability to be in the right place at the right time to stop the fire.
On August 24, 2010, Mark responded to a major, wind-driven grass fire in the Oak Knoll subdivision in Ashland, Oregon, that eventually incinerated 11 homes. Fortunately, Mark was an early arriving chief officer who instinctively knew where the fire was going to be. Mark was able to help families out of homes and position fire engines to stop the fire. Mark suffered severe smoke inhalation during this fire and developed a deteriorating lung condition, which he struggled with for many years. He never recovered, forcing him into early retirement soon after the event.
Mark is a man many will remember. He was well-respected and trusted in his career by firefighters and chief officers alike. The impacts he made to others are memories to be shared to family and friends. He was an incredible man, husband, father, son, grandfather, friend, and colleague; he was a hero. His passion enabled him to prosper in life, and his dedication to others left a legacy for his name. Mark was a true friend and mentor to almost everyone he knew. He was an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individual with many gifts and talents.