The title of the series refers to the 'burn notices' issued by intelligence agencies to discredit/announce the dismissal of agents/sources, considered to have become 'unreliable'.
When a spy is 'burned', they are wiped off the grid, without access to cash or influence. According to the narration during the opening credits, the burned spy has no prior work history, no money, no identity.
The first-person narrative of the show (including frequent voice-overs providing exposition) are from the viewpoint of covert-operations agent 'Michael Westen' (Donovan).
"...After fleeing a Nigerian operation blown apart by the sudden and unexplained non-cooperation of his US contact, Westen finds himself in his hometown of Miami, Florida, attended to by his ex-girlfriend, 'Fiona Glenanne', but abandoned by all his normal intelligence contacts, while under continuous surveillance. Extraordinary efforts to reach his US government handler yield only a grudging admission that someone powerful wants him 'on ice'.
"If Westen leaves the city he will be found and taken into custody, but by staying there, he can remain relatively free. Consumed by the desire to find out why he has been burned, and by whom, Westen goes to work as an unlicensed private investigator/spy/soldier of fortune for anyone who can pay, in order to fund his personal investigation into his own situation as a blacklisted agent..."
Click the images to enlarge and Sneak Peek "Burn Notice"...