Face-to-Face with Danger

September 7, 2022

With a calm and tranquil voice, James Burns explains how he coaxed a person, who was covered in gasoline while perched on a concrete wall of a highway overpass, to step away from the scene and receive help.

“I just talked to the person, who was probably more afraid than we were, and then called for the proper assistance,” recalls Burns, an EMT with Seattle AMR, a member of Global Medical Response’s (GMR) company of solutions.

While the former Washington State trooper makes the incident seem like a “walk in the park,” his leadership team didn’t see it that way. They say the person was threatening to light themself on fire, and that it was Burns, who persuaded the individual to come over the railing. And when the person did, Burns and his partner pulled the person to safety. Afterwards, and with police consultation, Burns personally transported the individual to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Then, on a separate occasion, Burns was credited for pulling an incapacitated patient from a vehicle that, if left unintended, could have also threatened the lives of many others on a major freeway. It happened when Burns and another partner were responding to a call, when they saw a vehicle that had crashed into a wall inside a tunnel of a busy highway. Then, when they stopped to take a closer look at the scene, they noticed the driver appeared to be immobilized as the individual was pressing on the accelerator, causing the tires to spin and smoke up. That’s when Burns broke the window and turned the vehicle off. He and his partner then extricated the patient out of the car and rendered aid until advanced care and transport arrived.

Both situations, as well as others like them, were some of the main reasons Burns was named as one of GMR’s 2022 Stars of Life. The American Ambulance Association’s (AAA) Stars of Life program is the nation's most prestigious event to celebrate dedicated EMS professionals, like Burns, who put the safety of others first.

“I feel very honored to be recognized with this award,” said Burns, whose altruism should not be confused with naivety. He makes it clear he is fully aware of the pros and cons that come with a career in EMS but believes the satisfaction that comes from serving his community far outweighs the challenges.

“When I knew I wanted to be in the field of public safety, I knew there would be risks involved. I began working in EMS just two years ago. This is without a doubt the field for me. So, when others feel like running away from a potentially dangerous situation, I’m the one, along with my teammates, who runs towards it; I’m here to be the help that someone needs, or I can lend a hand to help,” he says.
It’s that humility and attitude of giving that impressed his leadership and continues to leave a mark of excellence among his coworkers.
“James is a true servant-leader who demonstrates great commitment to his job and community,” said KC McCoy, Operations Manager for AMR Seattle.  “He never wants to take credit for all the good he’s done, but rather gives the credit to his teammates. He is a role model and an example of integrity in the workplace.”

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