Commissioner McCarey confers with Battalion Chief Burns during a three-alarm fire in North Philadelphia – January 28, 1968.


Robert T. Burns spent a thirty-year career in the Philadelphia Fire Department, where he served as a Battalion Chief in both the 11th Battalion in West Philadelphia and the 6th Battalion in the North Philadelphia-Kensington areas.

Upon his retirement Chief Burns was hired by the School District of Philadelphia as its Fire Marshall. He also headed the Philadelphia Retired Fire Officers Association for many years.

Bob Burns was a prolific writer and photographer. In addition to publishing Burns On Blazes about his years as a firefighter, he was a correspondent for Fire Engineering magazine. For over thirty years Chief Burns photographed fires and apparatus in and around the city. His slide collection is a graphic history of the department and have been used for training purposes at the Fire Academy.

At Fireman’s Hall Museum he assisted PFD Historian Jack Robrecht compile information of the department that was used in Hike Out: The History of the Philadelphia Fire Department, published in 1998. Chief Burns was an expert on apparatus, serving as a judge at parades and musters for many years.

After he retired, when he started to have health issues, his wife, Mary, would drive him to the firegrounds to photograph fires. At his funeral in 1989 Fire Commissioner Roger Ulshafer eulogized Chief Burns as “a man whose heart and soul were in the Philadelphia Fire Department.”

–Len Ottenbreit

Schultz Wallpaper Company
April 16, 1973
4 Alarms – Front & Diamond Sts.

Engine 21 Station
December 7, 1971
2 Alarms – New Market & Poplar Sts.

VAC Wiping Supply
November 18, 1972
4 Alarms – 1308 North 3rd Street

Carver Hall Apartments
January 11, 1969
5 Alarms – Oxford Ave. & Harrison St.

Duffield Apartments
January 2, 1972
3 Alarms – 3701 Conshohocken Avenue

Sheldrake Apartments
November 27, 1971
5 Alarms – 49th & Spruce St.

Merchants Building
February 9, 1966
7 Alarms – 42-44 North 4th Street

Laving Shipping Company
June 15, 1965
9 Alarms – Delaware & Washington Avenues

Tacony Warehousing Company
November 23, 1969
6 Alarms – Delaware Ave & Poplar St.

Calvert Hall Apartments
December 23, 1978
4 Alarms – 4034 Baltimore Avenue

Bromley Mills
April 5, 1979
4 Alarms – 13th St. & Lehigh Ave.

Lincoln Prep School
March 21, 1972
3 Alarms – 203 South 20th Street

Stoddard Junior High School
June 16, 1978
4 Alarms – 13th & Spring Garden Sts.

Temple Law School
July 25, 1972
4 Alarms – 1715 N. Broad Street

Longshore Avenue Stores
December 1, 1975
3 Alarms – Torresdale & Longshore Aves.