Fire Service Icon Alan Brunacini Passes Away

Alan Brunacini

It is with great sadness that the Fire Engineering/FDIC International family announces the passing of Chief (Ret.) Alan Brunacini of the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department. Brunacini was a noted and respected longtime author of the Fire Engineering column “Bruno ‘Unplugged’” and co-host of the popular FDIC International Big Room Session “Bruno and Norman ‘Unplugged.’” He was also a longtime Advisory Board member of Fire Engineering and FDIC International and received the Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award at FDIC International.

Brunacini joined the Phoenix Fire Department in 1958. He served in every department position. He was promoted to fire chief in 1978 and retired in 2006. He was a graduate of the Fire Protection Technology program at Oklahoma State University. He had a BS and an MPA from Arizona State University. He was the past Chairman of the Board of the National Fire Protection Association and the first Chairman and developer of the NFPA Fire Service Occupational Safety Committee (standard 1500). He was also the first Chairman of the NFPA Career Fire Service Career Organization and Deployment Committee (standard 1710).

Brunacini was the author of Fire Command, Command Safety, Timeless Tactical Truths, Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service, and The Anatomy and Physiology of Leadership. He also presented workshops, seminars, and conferences to many fire departments throughout the country on various topics. He and his sons owned and operated the fire service Web site

John Norman, Bobby Halton, and Alan Brunacini

Above, from left to right: John Norman, Bobby Halton, and Alan Brunacini on stage at FDIC International.


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 moral 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.”

“I was so sorry to hear of the untimely passing of our friend and mentor, Chief Alan Brunacini. Chief Brunacini and I have shared the stage at FDIC for the past seven or eight years, and I was humbled to be in his presence. The man was a huge influence on the fire service in general and myself in particular. The fact that we had both attended Oklahoma State University (although many years apart) and shared several friends in common were the initial factors that gave me the courage to approach this almost god-like figure and introduce myself at a conference years ago. He instantly welcomed me and shared some stories of those days with friends years earlier. We would see each other many times over the next several decades, and I was always amazed at his humility and his knowledge as well as his love for the fire service. He reminded me so much of another fire service icon, Leo Stapleton, former fire commissioner of Boston. Both were like father figures to me in so many ways. I will miss him dearly,” Deputy Assistant Chief (Ret.) John Norman, Fire Department of New York, and half of the dynamic duo in “Bruno and Norman ‘Unplugged,’” said. “I have been told that Al died in the Phoenix airport in transit to or from yet another training session somewhere across this great nation. I find it ironic and heartwarming. He was a teacher to so many right up until his last breath. I think that is a fitting legacy for a man who has taught the fire service so much in the past 50 years. I believe he would have liked the irony and enjoyed the fact that he was home in his beloved Phoenix.”

“Chief Brunacini had the uncanny ability to put the newest recruit and the saltiest old-timer at ease with his incredible humor and low-key demeanor despite his international fame. He was one of a kind, a true student of the fire service. I don’t know anyone else who meticulously kept up with the changing trends, constantly keeping notes in his little pocket notebook well past his retirement as chief. As the father of Incident Command, he brought the fire service into the modern age of fire scene management. His impact on the fire service will still resonate many years from now,” said Glenn Corbett, associate professor of fire science at John Jay College in New York City and a technical editor of Fire Engineering

“Bruno was an incredible mentor and friend. I am thankful for the many conversations and incredible wisdom that he shared. He had a unique ability to expose the simplicity in the fire services complex issues. He lived as he preached, being nice, being safe, and preventing harm,” added Captain David Rhodes, Atlanta (GA) Fire Department and longtime fellow FDIC International Advisory Board member. 

Fire Engineering technical editor Captain Bill Gustin, Miami-Dade (FL) Fire-Rescue, said, “If I had to characterize Chief Brunacini, the first thing that pops into my mind is that he was a great listener.  This is what made him so humble, approachable, and loved. Although he was a giant in the fire service, he never forgot where he came from and held ordinary firefighters in high esteem. He not only listened to firefighters but he cared what they said and thought. The second thing that comes to mind is that he was a compassionate man dedicated to public service in the true sense of the word. Chief Brunacini set an example for us all by constantly reminding us of why we are here: In his words, “WE ARE HERE FOR MRS. SMITH.” Mrs. Smith represented a person who had a problem, usually not a fire, and had no one else to turn to but the fire department. The Good Chief taught us to be patient and kind to Mrs. Smith whatever her problem, because it is in the finest traditions of the fire service.”    

Chief (Ret.) Rick Lasky, Lewisville (TX) 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–kind, loved his family, and will be loved by our great fire service forever.”

Jack J. Murphy, fellow FE/FDIC Board member, said, “We have lost a fire service legend today. Chief Alan Brunacini was the essential fire service mover and shaker across this country. There was not any firemanic aspect that he did not contribute across the broad span of fire department issues.  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. My first encounter with Chief Alan was at the 1997 FDIC. The classroom attendees were lining the walls of the large room, so we had to prevent more from entering. After class, he was asked if he was willing to conduct another classroom session the next day. Without any hesitation, he said yes. To my favorite FDIC ‘Best Known Author’ badge attendee, you will be dearly missed but never forgotten. Enjoy your ‘Mack’ fire engine ride through the Gates of Heaven.”


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