Remembering Al Brunacini: Pioneer of the Fire Industry

The Phoenix Fire Department and the firefighting community lost an invaluable member on October 15th, 2017.  The family of former Phoenix Fire Chief Alan Brunacini announced his passing on Sunday.  As news of Al’s passing spread through firehouses and halls an outpouring of praise came from industry leaders across the country whom Al provided guidance and inspiration. Fire Engineering Editor in Chief and FDIC International Education Director Bobby Halton said, “One of the most incredible lights that ever burned in the fire service has gone out forever. A totally unique and one-of-a kind giant, innovator, and spiritual leader has left us better and stronger than we ever could have been without him. He changed the face of the fire service forever, and we loved him and will miss him.” Alan Brunacini was the commensurate firefighter.  “Bruno”, as he was affectionately referred to, served as a firefighter, lecturer, author to over 9 books, and a true fire service pioneer. Brunacini started his fire career at the Phoenix Fire Department in 1958.  Al’s simple, common-sense, and humorous method to problem solving quickly allowed him to progress through the firehouse ranks.  Brunacini held every sworn position in the Phoenix fire organization including a firefighter, engineer, captain, assistant chief, and battalion chief where he served as fire chief for 28 years before retiring in 2006.  Academically, Al held a BS and an MPA from Arizona State University as well as a graduating from the Fire Protection Technology program at Oklahoma State University.  Al also served as the Chairman of the Board of the National Fire Protection Association, NFPA Career Fire Service Career Organization, and developer of the NFPA Fire Service Occupational Safety Committee. Arguably the most important contribution that Bruno has bestowed onto future generations of fire service professionals were his presentations, workshops, seminars, and conferences to many fire departments throughout the country.  He spoke on countless occasions about topics ranging from firefighter safety to citizen customer service.  Bruno’s contributions to present and future emergency personnel knowledge has manifested into experiences such as the one from AJ Heightman of JEMS, the journal of emergency medical services.  He summarized one of Bruno’s sessions he attended:  “As a young EMS director in Eastern Pennsylvania and the son of a fire captain, I knew how disorganized scenes could be.  Bruno emphasized safe, effective and efficient fire service operations and administration.  This also meant performing emergency medical services within the fire service enthusiastically and as a major part of the job.  Bruno emphasized doing whatever it took to meet the needs of the “customer,” even if it meant boarding up windows, replacing damaged caused by extinguishing a fire, or cooking them a meal. Perhaps most important, being fully transparent about the challenges of 21st century firefighting with elected officials and the public about the men and women who worked for them”.   While some fire professionals have commented mostly on the tactical contributions, others have reflected on the humanistic part of Bruno’s legacy.  Chief Rick Lasky of the Lewisville, Texas Fire Department, said, “If you’re lucky, you have the opportunity in life to meet people who change your life forever. Chief Alan Brunacini changed mine.  He was more than just a mentor.  He was a good friend, someone I looked up to and always will.  But even more than that, he made a difference in the lives of firefighters everywhere.  He was an incredible leader, a trend setter, and a mentor.  He was kind, loved his family, and will be loved by our great fire service forever.”  One of his colleagues at the FDIC board commented, “He was always a ‘gentleman’ with a warm heart who would stop and chat as if you were a long-lost friend, no matter what fire service rank you held.  There were no frills to his appearance or demeanor, just a simple “Hawaiian” style shirt that set the tone” said Jack J. Murphy, fellow FE/FDIC Board member. Chief Brunacini, through his articles, books and instruction, had an uncanny ability to reach all ranks of emergency service personnel with the message that despite your level in the organization you must follow the ‘Golden Rule’. That is treat others inside and outside of the firehouse as they would want to be treated.  Bruno’s philosophies on customer service, building better more efficient apparatus, and incident command were taught through example with the goal of improving the fire service.  Chief Brunacini’s impact on the fire service cannot be overstated. His foresight and influence have touched virtually every aspect of fire service, and have dramatically, and permanently, changed it for the better. More importantly, Chief Brunacini impacted every person who met him with his kindness, sense of humor, and humility were disarming. Those who benefited from his legacy are grateful and thankful to be working in a profession that he helped build.  His impact on the fire industry is impossible to quantify and he will surely be loved within the community for years to come.   Sources: + “Fire Service Icon Alan Brunacini Passes Away.” Fire Service Icon Alan Brunacini Passes Away,, 10 Oct. 2017, + Heightman, A.J. “The Passing of a Legend, Hero, Mentor & Inspiration: Chief Alan Brunacini.”The Passing of a Legend, Hero, Mentor & Inspiration: Chief Alan Brunacini, JEMS, 16 Oct. 2017, + “Fire Service Icon Alan Brunacini Passes Away.” Fire Service Icon Alan Brunacini Passes Away,, 10 Oct. 2017,

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