Graduates of CNM: Sean Burns
Sean Burns during his CNM Firefighter 1 and 2 class at the New Mexico Firefighters’ Training Academy in Socorro.

Graduates of CNM: Sean Burns

His mom is a firefighter and he’ll soon be one, too
April 18, 2018

If you ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up, a large percentage will say “firefighter.” Most, however, never follow through.

Not so with Sean Burns, 21. He was that kid and is now just one step away from fighting fires for a living. This spring, he’ll be graduating with an associate degree in Fire Science and will have completed CNM’s 12-week, 150-hour Firefighter 1 and 2 theory and lab class, which will certify him as a Structural Firefighter 2. With that certification he’s eligible for a job with the Albuquerque Fire Department (AFD), where he’s always wanted to work.  

“Some of my earliest memories are from a fire station because my mom is a driver with AFD,” Sean says. “I remember the pantry being super stocked, especially with licorice. And I remember jamming my fingers in a fire truck door and having the firefighters pull me out.”

It’s taken a lot of perseverance to get here. Five days a week throughout college, Sean has been getting up at 3:30 a.m. and driving to Costco where he clocks in at 4:30 a.m. to stock the warehouse. It’s a good job that’s helped him pay for tuition and it gave him time to attend CNM classes four days a week in the afternoon.

“It’s tiring, sure, but I’m driven,” Sean says. “I’ve been telling myself that it’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when I get to work for AFD.”

Students in the CNM Firefighter 1 and 2 class prepare to run a residential fire drill at the New Mexico Firefighters’ Training Academy in Socorro

It’s also helped, he says, that CNM classes are affordable, offered year-round (including summer) and offered at multiple locations, including the Westside campus, which is much closer to his house.  

“Because CNM makes everything convenient, I was able to work, go to class, and still have time for a social life,” he says.

During his Firefighter 1 and 2 class, Sean has gotten plenty of hands-on experience. He’s practiced everything from putting out a residential fire in a training facility to extracting a dummy victim from a simulated car crash. He’s also spent a lot of time mentally preparing for the real thing.

“I feel like I’ve wrapped my head around what it means to be a firefighter,” he says. “About half-way through the Firefighter 1 and 2 class, I knew without a doubt that this was the job for me. Everyone wants to find their purpose, and this is definitely my purpose.”

Diane Burns, Sean’s mom, says she immediately saw how captivated he was after being able to put theory into practice.

“The Firefighter 1 and 2 class really solidified things for him,” she says. “You could just see his face light up whenever he talked about what he’d done that day.”  

Diane was one of the people who encouraged Sean to attend CNM so that he had a Fire Science degree and would stand out when he applied to AFD. Interestingly enough, she also decided to attend CNM and graduated last fall with a Fire Science degree that will help her if she wants to pursue a different job after retiring from the department.

“I told my kids it’s never too late to go back to school, even if you’re older,” she says.

Looking forward, Sean says he’s excited for the service aspect of firefighting. He gets to help people on their worst days. But he’s also excited about all of the other aspects of the job. He’s looking forward to the adrenaline rush of entering a burning building, to the physical work he’ll have to do on a daily basis, and to the team-building aspect of being part of a fire station.

“When you’re living and working so closely with a group of other people who have the same mentality as you, you start to bring out the best in each other,” he says. “Everyone is trying to help everyone else get better at their job. I love that.”

To find out more about the Fire Sciences program and the new Firefighter 1 and 2 class, please email Charlie Molinari at

Sean, left, gets feedback from a CNM instructor at the New Mexico Firefighters’ Training Academy in Socorro