When I received word that Hal Bruno passed away last night, I took a little time to reflect on the lessons that Hal taught me in my four years working with him at Firehouse Magazine. I learned as much about politics as I did the fire service and journalism from Hal, who always answered his home phone "Bruno!" as if he were in the newsroom at ABC taking a hot tip from a source.
Hal was a longtime firefighter in Bethesda, Md., who never forgot his roots as he worked his way up the career ladder. From Chicago fire buff to reporter to the guy that I would see on the television on Sunday morning TV shows. Shows I never watched until I heard a personal connection with one of the frequent guests.
In my early days at the magazine, Hal used to fax his columns over and I would enter them into the computer. He would call and I would move over to the fax machine and await his five page transmission to come through. Upon returning to me desk, I'd return the call and let him know it had arrived and then enter it into the system. Once it was placed on the magazine page, I'd fax a copy back and he'd point out a typo or make a quick edit.
I was lucky to have spent many hours chatting with Hal on the phone about the happenings in D.C. He'd throw around phrases like "Pork Barrel funding" and then I could pester him for more about things "Inside the Beltway."
It was the same story when it came to a journalism career. Who better to seek advice from then the gentleman that I saw on TV on election night, on Sunday mornings and other random times. Hal was the first reporter at the scene of the 1958 fire at the Our Lady of Angels school in Chicago and he shared the entire story with me one year at Firehouse Expo.
I believe he played a major role in programs such as the FIRE Act program for federal grants, sprinklers and the public safety officer benefits (PSOB). He brought these items to our attention through his monthly columns. He also played a major role in building the foundation for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation's efforts to remember those who have given their lives in the line of duty.
Hal was a small man physically, but he had a big heart for the fire service. Some say you should never mix politics with, well, you fill it in. But, Hal had a way of mixing politics with the country's bravest men and women and we're all very fortunate that he did.