Bruno Recalled as Passionate Fire Service Advocate

Those who worked with fire service advocate Hal Bruno are remembering his savvy, warmth and enduring support.

"It didn't matter if you had a 'D' or an 'R' after your name," Webb said. "He was very deft in his ability to reach out to both sides of the aisle to get things done."

In 2008, Bruno was honored by the CSFI with the Motorola Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award, recognizing his tireless efforts to promote firefighter safety and fire service issues.

In accepting that award Bruno said, "I was perfectly happy being a newsman by day and a fireman at night. And, I didn't think there was enough politics in the fire service to sustain a monthly column. Just look around this room and see how wrong I was... My thanks goes to Harvey Eisner and Jeff Barrington, and all the editors and publishers at Firehouse who have given me total freedom for more than 30 years to write it as I see it."

Bruno was the only volunteer with the Chevy Chase (Md.) Fire Department and was a member of the department's board of directors until his death, according to Robert Stephan, a retired battalion chief for the department. Stephan said Bruno was connected with the department for 36 years.

"He really cared about the firefighters," Stephan said. "He was always looking out for them and making sure they had what they needed." 

He called Bruno, a "master communicator" who was a  dependable advocate for the firefighters. In his role as a member of the board of directors, he made sure the department had the equipment it needed to do the job. 

"He really listened to the firefighters," Stephan said. He added that Bruno was also a a member of the Friendship Fire Association in Washington, D.C., where he often worked on the organization's firefighter canteen that operates in the D.C. area.

One of Bruno's contributing editor colleagues at Firehouse, Charles Werner, chief of the Charlottesville (Va.) Fire Department, said Bruno was a "kind, caring man of great integrity."

"Hal was a passionate advocate for the fire service and his presence will be sorely missed," Werner said. "Hal had the unique talent of deciphering the political implications for the fire service, communicating them and advising the fire service on the ways to address them."

There was perhaps no other area that Bruno felt so compelled to address as Line of Duty Deaths (LODDs). In a 2007 column published in Firehouse Magazine, Bruno wrote; "We know that a firefighter's work is inherently dangerous, but we must never accept line-of-duty deaths as inevitable when we know from experience that they are preventable."

Bruno found a way to make a huge impact on LODDs and the ways to prevent them and help the families when they happened when he made a connection with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF).

He was appointed chairman of the NFFF in 1999, a position he held until his retirement in 2008.

Bruno was replaced by Dennis Compton, the former fire chief of Mesa, Ariz., and assistant chief in Phoenix, Ariz., where he served for 27 years.

Compton, one of three people who will eulogize Bruno during his funeral on Friday, Nov. 11, said he had known Bruno for more than 20 years. He remembers Bruno as a warm, caring individual whose demeanor belied the fact that he was a powerhouse in politics and in the fire service.

"He truly was a celebrity, yet it always amazed me how genuinely caring he was," Compton said in between flights as he winged his way to Maryland for Bruno's services. "He was such a nice guy."

Compton said he was fond of the way Bruno wore his emotions on his face. "When he frowned, the line on his forehead went from side to side and when he smiled it filled his whole face from side to side," he said with a chuckle.

Compton said he has been thinking a lot about Bruno since his passing and how honored he was to have worked with him on so many of the NFFF's initiatives over the years.

"He worked tirelessly for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation," Compton said, noting that his efforts have left a lasting impression on how the fire service reacts to line of duty deaths and how safety has now become a priority.

"What Hal did for other people is remarkable," Compton said. "He was able to use his political influence to bring about real change for the fire service... What a wonderful man he was."