Firehouse® Interview: Phoenix Fire Chief Alan Brunacini

Editor-in-Chief Harvey Eisner interviews the man who has led the Phoenix Fire Department since 1978 and has become an international fire service leader.


Alan Brunacini has been a member of the Phoenix Fire Department since 1958. He was promoted through the ranks and was appointed to the position of fire chief in 1978. He heads a fire department with over 1,400 members in a city with a population over one million. Photo Courtesy of...


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Alan Brunacini has been a member of the Phoenix Fire Department since 1958. He was promoted through the ranks and was appointed to the position of fire chief in 1978. He heads a fire department with over 1,400 members in a city with a population over one million.

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Photo Courtesy of the Phoenix FD
Phoenix Fire Chief, Alan Brunacini

He is a 1960 graduate of the Fire Protection Technology program at Oklahoma State University and earned a degree in political science at Arizona State University in 1970. He graduated from the Urban Executives program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973 and earned a master of public administration degree from Arizona State in 1975.

Brunacini is the chairman of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1710 Technical Committee for Fire Service Organization and Deployment Projects for paid departments. He is past chairman of the Board of Directors of the NFPA, the first active fire service member to hold this position. He is also past chairman of the Fire Service Occupational Safety and Health Committee of NFPA, which was responsible for the development of Standard 1500. This document, adopted in 1987, is aimed at reducing firefighter deaths and injuries, while promoting health and fitness programs and is having a major impact on the fire service.

Brunacini has instructed at workshops and seminars, dealing with Fireground Operations, Health and Safety, Customer Service and Fire Department Management. His book, Fire Command, has become a popular text for students of firefighting and was supplemented by a movie that demonstrates his fireground commander system in action. He has recently completed a second book titled, Essentials of Fire Department Customer Service. Brunacini is also a popular speaker at Firehouse Expo and other fire service conferences and meetings, and has been recognized for his accomplishments with numerous awards and honors from many organizations. He was interviewed by Firehouse® Editor-in-Chief Harvey Eisner.

Firehouse: Are there some accomplishments of yours that you think are more outstanding than others?

Brunacini: In the last 20 years or so, I think the things that we have done are not that much different than probably the mainstream of the fire service.

I mean, EMS we did in the '70s and '80s. We did incident management. We've been involved in safety, special operations with everybody, the hazmat, high angle, low angle, swiftwater and all that business.

We've been able to connect with a lot of other people in the fire service, so we've tried to stay connected with what's going on, on the outside. You see a lot of people from Phoenix out at the conferences and at the meetings, and we certainly appreciate the chance to get out and do that. The city is very expansive in trying to look at what is the state of the art in the process. It makes it a lot easier when you work in a place that encourages progress.

Firehouse: Are there any special programs in which you reach out to the community through customer service? Are there some things that give public here "more for their buck" than other places?

Brunacini: We spent 10, 20 years developing the technical/tactical part of the system. The next phase or the next adventure for us was a lot more human. In other words, that we've been lucky because we've been able to do a lot of human resource management inside the system. An example of that is our labor relationship - we've had just an exceptional relationship with the local here, which is Local 493.

Firehouse: Just as good as when (former local president) Pat Cantalme was here?

Brunacini: Yes, and it started with Pat, who was the union president for 20 years, and now Billy Shields, who was Pat's assistant, has assumed that role. The change between Pat and Billy was just absolutely transparent.

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