Fire Chief Alan Brunacini

The late Fire Chief (Ret.) Alan Brunacini, Phoenix Fire Department

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

I’m reading my news feeds on LinkedIn and Facebook this morning and seeing the “tidal wave” of sentiments on the passing of Fire Chief (Ret.) Alan Brunacini. I’m among probably millions of “Chief Bruno” fans (And millions is not an exaggeration in this case!) and I’m compelled to share a couple of thoughts about this man who probably had more influence over the fire service in the U.S. and abroad than any man in history.

Fire Ground Command

With Fire Ground Command, Bruno taught an entire generation of fire officers and firefighters how to take people, equipment, apparatus, water, etc., and bring it all together in a coordinated effort to extinguish fires. He took the concepts from FIRESCOPE, that rose from the ashes of California wildfires in the late 1960’s, and developed a system for fire ground management that was so easy to understand that “even a 5th grader” could understand the need for sectors on the fire ground. Or that “big fires require big water.” Or any other of the thousands of “Bruno Sayings” that we’ve grown up with and learned from over the years.

He wrote the definitive book on the subject of putting out fires. Yes, others–Lloyd Layman, Manny Fried, and Bill Clark immediately come to mind–have written great books on strategies and tactics for combating fires. But Bruno brought it all together in his seminal work, Fire Ground Command. (Just like the man, the book’s title was short, sweet, and to the point).

Bruno’s prose was tight and the book’s many illustrations are still firmly fixed in my mind. One of those “Bruno-isms” that has never left my mind (And I’m sure I speak for many of my colleagues) is his Risk Management Philosophy:

  1. Risk a lot to save a life.
  2. Risk a little to save property.
  3. Risk nothing to save nothing. The property is already lost.

Were there even discussions of risk management on the fire ground B.B. (Before Bruno)?

Fire Service Customer Service 

The man single-handedly made “Mrs. Smith” famous in firehouses and fire halls across the U.S. and Canada with his ground-breaking book, Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service. More than that, he gave us the playbook for making customer service a focus for fire department operations. (Holy paradigm shift, Batman!).

After Bruno’s customer service book came out, and his thousands of lectures on the topic (just like with Fire Ground Command’s roll-out), Bruno’s legion of followers only continued to increase. Once again, a generation of fire officers and firefighters grew up with a “Bruno Mantra”, “Do the right thing. Take care of Mrs. Smith.”

I ask again, “Were there even discussions of customer service in the fire service B.B.?

Approachability

Probably the one book Bruno could easily have written. Instead he lived it. Go to a fire service conference or training course where Bruno was in attendance and you and all of your pals could not only get your picture taken with him, but he talked to you like you were the best of friends. Because to Bruno, every fire officer and firefighter WAS a friend. What greater thing could be said about a man of his stature?

We’re all going to miss him that’s for sure. But when you look up the word “legacy” in the dictionary from now on this is the picture you’ll see next to the definition. Enough said?

RIP Chief Brunacini

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for FireRescue1.com and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec and his wife of 30+ years now make their home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, rpa1157@gmail.com.