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Tribute to Chief Alan Brunacini

By Chief Dennis Compton, Chairman of the Board of Directors, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Tribute to Chief Alan Brunacini

A shining light that has for many years guided very important service delivery, safety and other aspects of the fire service passed away on Sunday October 15, 2017 at the age of 80.

It was my good fortune to have worked with Chief Brunacini (Bruno) in the Phoenix Fire Department for nearly 3 decades – including 15 years in the position of Assistant Fire Chief. He was not only my boss – he was also my friend, mentor and coach. Many of the successes I have experienced in my career are (in one way or another) a reflection of my close relationship and experiences with Alan.

Starting back in the mid-1970’s, and moving forward to 2017, absolutely incredible changes have occurred in fire departments throughout the United States and Canada. Nobody has their fingerprints on more of those changes becoming a reality than Bruno. And I mean real change – not small tweaks – but real and lasting operational and cultural change.

Bruno always said to “use the systems to change the systems”…and that is exactly what he did. He was proud to have been a graduate of the Oklahoma State University School of Fire Protection. He was able to leverage his experiences with OSU to impact the fire service in unique ways. He did the same with his roles as a teacher, speaker, author, leader in national fire service organizations (such as the NFPA), the Fire Chief in Phoenix, and many other aspects of his career. To a large extent, Alan was influential because of his understanding of the fire service and his willingness to engage and lead within the various systems and roles available to him.

Understand that being such a visionary and change agent could be quite difficult at times. It was never easy, and interestingly, much of the resistance he encountered came from inside the fire service. The NFPA 1500 series and the NFPA 1710 standard, Fireground Command, Positive Labor/Management Relations, and some of the other efforts he led over the years were met with significant angst – and sometimes ugliness – from inside (and outside) the fire service. I say that to make the point that the leadership skills, determination and courage he possessed were incredible. In fact, those traits allowed him to overcome challenges and win over (or sometimes out-last) most naysayers.

Chief Brunacini’s vision, leadership capabilities, belief in research and training, and confidence in the capabilities of firefighters changed our service forever. His influence contributed greatly to who we are, what we do, and the way we do it. Because he chose to become a firefighter, the fire service became different, safer, and more effective. It’s impossible to overstate his gifts and the many lives he impacted through his leadership. On behalf of a grateful fire service: Thank You Alan – Rest Easy Chief.

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