Brunacini: Jesus on a Firetruck

He Came From The Desert

The man called “Bruno” died Sunday, age 80, apparently with, as they say, “his boots on.”

As chief of the Phoenix fire department and afterwards, he was a constant professional presence, lecturing to the four corners of the world.

He spoke the gospel according to Alan and he amassed legions of followers.

That gospel was at its root about caring for people, your own and the folks in the community, a delightful message from a needed messiah.

Bruno reformed the idea of ambition since it is often seen as being a coarse behavior.

Ambitious he surely was but in the way of a Lincoln, always unassuming and low-key.

He wore his fame as the lightest of garments.

Leaders aren’t just defined by what they do, but also how they do it.

Here he was the master.

To return to Lincoln for a moment, it has been said that he was, in part, “plain, funny and kind…”, which, of course, was Alan to a T.

He was both irreverent and self-deprecating as he eschewed every aspect of importance or ego, dressed in well-worn jeans and a Hawaiian print shirt.

In the end, while his message was critically needed, it is the essence of the man as leader  which deserves to endure: his kindness, simplicity and caring, bereft of the trappings of power and fame.









  • Victoria Huckenpahler says:

    He sounds like a bodhisattva!

  • Jinny Fleischman says:

    He was a true gentleman in all the best meanings of that phase. A gifted leader, he never forgot to care for those who worked with him. At the same time, he could be as savvy as necessary to deal with whatever the political world sent his way.

  • Chuck Gentilquore says:

    A great man from beginning to end. Prayers are with the family.

  • James J. Keating says:

    This is the obituary for a man who was ahead of his time and showed the fire service how to join him at the same time. his columns or articles were a teaching and learning experience. RIP Chief.

  • Tom Louis says:

    Succinct and very nicely said Eric.
    He was indeed kind, yet always had a gravitas about him. Bruno could’ve lived to 100 and his passing would’ve been too soon. He may have eschewed the moniker of “messiah”, but he sure shared a message that helped us become better firefighters…and better people too.

    Thanks for writing your post. Much appreciated.

  • He was also a really good dad.

  • Rod Prast, Fire Chief (ret) says:

    All of the stories I’ve read about my friend–are true. Thank you for sharing his Gospel with the world. My favorite is the time, late at night I was riding along with E1 and we caught a working apartment fire. I was on the sidelines, watching the 2A crews working; but who quietly came up and stood by me to say hi and watch with us–but Chief Bruno. Very caring, unassuming, thoughtful, endearing..

  • Don Courtright says:

    We have lost an icon

  • Richard Knecht says:

    You have framed “Bruno” exactly as he will be remembered for posterity. Chief Bruno Rest in Peace you deserve it. God Bless…….

  • Eileen Brennan Cress says:

    The fire service has lost one of its brightest lights and our hearts are so heavy. Rest in peace Chief. Your passion, wisdom and dedication will be remembered always. I am thankful most for his kindness, huge heart, shared stories, big smile and continued friendship. Showing us all that a true “Giant” is not measured in stature, but in presence.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with the Brunacini family. Thank you for sharing your Dad with mine…the East coast meets West coast connection like no other. Unplugged has a new address, just wish it were still here. God Bless you Chief and prayers for strength to your family in the days ahead….

  • Kevin Conant says:

    Well written Eric, thank you.
    I have never met anyone else who inspired the person and the profession to do and be better. He has truly been a gift in my life, and I treasure his generosity.

  • Tom Mitten, Elsmere, DE Fire Co. says:

    America’s fire service family mourns the passing of this iconic figure, Chief Alan Brunacini, a little more than two weeks after another distinguished national fire service leader, Lou Amabili, passed away. These two men brought the service we all love to the foreground, through training and development of leaders at every level. While they will be missed by all who knew them, their contributions to the fire service will never be forgotten. Here’s hoping Bruno and Lou are enjoying heavenly rest, while they look down upon all of us and keep us from harm.

  • So I stopped in to Bruno’s office when I was writing the proposal for my dissertation. I was tagging along with Beth for here annual NAEMSP conference.
    We chatted and he read the executive summary and asked me quite simply, “Who gives a shit?” Anyone else and I would have wigged out, but it was Alan – he got my attention and then we talked for about an hour about “the why” and the rest was history.
    Alan was that dude who made unbelievable deposits in other’s emotional bank accounts.
    I asked him once, “what do you do when you gotta get something done and the time factor does not permit ‘process’ ” and he replied, “do it ’cause I love you.” He followed that up with “and then the real work begins again, building that love up again” That was “The Dwarf” always building the love.

  • Dwight H Havens says:

    My thoughts and prayers.

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