A.C. Donald Burns, Cmd. Ctr. Donald J. Burns‚ 61‚ assistant chief‚ FDNY‚ citywide tour commander. Burns had set up a command center in the World Trade Center’s South Tower just minutes before it collapsed. Decorated five times during his 39-year career‚ Burns had been the commander of Tower 1 at the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He was considered a ‘walking encyclopedia’ because of his vast knowledge of New York City’s streets and subway system. Service was in his genes: Burns’ father retired as a battalion chief. A father of 3‚ he also volunteered with his hometown fire department. Every night he would go outside to watch the sun set over the Long Island Sound because every sunset and every day is unique. But mostly he loved taking long walks with his wife‚ Betty. Farewell to ‘Exceptional’ Firefighter Memorial honors assistant chief, a 39-year veteran October 10, 2001 Fighting fires was not just a job to Assistant Chief Donald J. Burns but his passion, one that rubbed off on many of his colleagues within the New York Fire Department. Burns, who remains missing since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, was memorialized during a Mass yesterday in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where he was hailed as an “exceptional” leader within the department. A 39-year veteran of the department, Burns, 61, rose from firefighter to citywide borough commander, a job that required him to be at all major incidents in the city during his 24- hour shifts. During his career, Burns’ ability to learn from his mistakes and use them to improve firefighting skills was apparent to most of his colleagues, who respected him as a brilliant tactician and strategist. “Anything you ever wanted to know about the Fire Department, he would have the answer,” said Deputy Asst. Chief Albert Turi after yesterday’s Mass. “If you could be half as good a chief as he was you’d still be a good chief.” In talking about Burns at the service, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen used words like “hero” and “patriot” to describe Burns. “His experience was unparalleled,” Von Essen said. In front of the cathedral, a large American flag was hung from a fire truck over the heads of several hundred uniformed firefighters lined up along Fifth Avenue. Burns’ family led the procession into and out of the cathedral, to the sound of solemn music played by the Fire Department’s bagpipe band. Burns, who lived in Nissequogue, is survived by his wife, Betty, and three children, Laurie, 37, Michael, 35, and Patrick, 29. He began his career in 1962 in Brooklyn and rose through the ranks in various positions until 1997, when he became a citywide tour commander. “When you were with him, you feel there’s no fire you couldn’t conquer,” said 51st Battalion Chief Howard Carlson, based in Richmond Hill. “He was exceptional.” –Bryan Virasami (Newsday) On the tapes, the commander of operations in the south tower, Donald Burns, is heard repeatedly calling for additional companies, but many firefighters headed for that building became caught in traffic or became confused about which tower they should report to. As events developed, the inability to get more firefighters into the south tower may have spared some lives, officials said. Chief Donald Burns was a decorated 39-year veteran of the department and one of the most knowledgeable men in the FDNY often referred to as the “Human Hagstrom.” On the morning of Sept. 11th, after the 1st plane hit the north tower, Chief Burns arrived on the scene. In the 9/11 documentary filmed by two French brothers, which by complete chance contains footage of the last moments inside of the WTC, Assistant Chief Burns is seen conferring in the North Tower with Battalion Chief Orio Palmer and Deputy Chief Peter Hayden, among others. The South Tower had just been hit and the men were discussing how to respond to the two towers, and the communications problems they faced. They decided that Chief Burns and Battalion Chief Orio Palmer would proceed to the South Tower to set up a command post at the foot of the WTC. Before leaving, Chief Burns brought up the issue that the during the ’93 terrorist attack, they had trouble with communications, and they discussed how to communicate through their handy talkys without interference. And then they took off for the south tower. A 78-minute voice tape recording recovered from inside the towers contains the voice of Chief Burns. He is heard repeatedly calling for additional companies to the south tower, but many firefighters headed for the south tower became caught in traffic or became confused about which tower they should report to. Minutes later the south tower collapsed. “Chief Burns was the most intelligent man I had ever met,” said Deputy Assistant Chief Albert Turi. “He knew more about New York than anyone – the location of any alarm box and every street in every borough.” “Anything you ever wanted to know about the Fire Department, he would have the answer.” “If you could be half as good a chief as he was you’d still be a good chief.” He is fondly remembered as a “walking encyclopedia” for his vast knowledge of the city. Fighting fires was not just a job to him, but his passion – one that rubbed off on many of his colleagues within the FDNY. He was hailed as an “exceptional” leader within the department. “He could have retired years ago, but it was his love of the job that kept him going. He could not give it up,” said retired firefighter Bob Wood. Burns left behind his wife Elizabeth, and three children, Lori, Michael, a police officer, and Patrick, a firefighter with Ladder Co. 123 in Brooklyn.