WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The tables were turned Thursday night for one of the staunchest fire service advocates.
Hal Bruno, who has walked the halls of Congress for decades to promote firefighter agenda, received the longest standing ovation of the night when it was announced he was the recipient of the Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award.
The honor was bestowed on Bruno at the 20th annual Congressional Fire Services Institute Fire and Emergency Services dinner.
After many, many years, he relinquished his master of ceremonies duties to Chief Dennis Compton.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who jokingly said she's known Bruno for 1,000 years, said everyone on Capitol Hill revered him during his tenure with ABC News as a political commentator. "He was savvy," she said, adding that politicians in both parties were interested in what he had to say about them.
In addition to his work ethic as a journalist, Bruno displayed "such great pride as a volunteer fireman." She said she is certain that the award "means the world to him" because he was so dedicated to the cause.
Pelosi traced her admiration for the fire service to her father, a former mayor of Baltimore. She said she was reminded early on -- never forget the firefighters. They are there to protect us."
She also promised to help secure continued funding for various projects.
Congressman Steny Hoyer also praised Bruno for his treks to Congress to insure that the families who lost loved ones in the line of duty were not forgotten, and received the proper benefits.
"He is a fire service treasure," Hoyer said of Bruno, adding that he never met such a hard worker.
Bruno, who stepped down recently as chairman of the board of directors of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, was moved by the tribute and accolades. He also took the opportunity to remind people it's their mission to continue to honor those who die while performing their duty.
He recognized the families of fallen firefighters, and promised that they will never be forgotten.
"We know that the fire, rescue service is inherently dangerous. But, we must never accept a line-of-duty death as inevitable because we know from bitter experience that most are preventable. Our campaign to save firefighters' lives has been an uphill battle. But, each tragic setback makes us more determined to keep pushing until "Everyone Goes Home" becomes a reality instead of a slogan."
He also took a few moments to honor people who got him involved in the fire politics business, and encouraged him along the way.
"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," Bruno said of Firehouse Magazine Founder Dennis Smith, who talked him into writing a column.
"...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."
He paid tribute to CFSI Leaders Bill Webb and Sean Carroll for their assistance as he pursued his endeavors on Capitol Hill.
Bruno also thanked his wife of nearly 49 years, Meg, for her unwavering support.
NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki said of Bruno's selection: "He's dedicated his entire life to the fire service. He's been a true champion. Hal's committed to making the fire service better."
CFSI Executive Director Bill Webb said of his longtime friend, "On Capitol Hill and at the White House, Bruno has always been admired and respected for his integrity and ability to work with Democrats and Republicans alike to address important issues impacting our nation's firefighters and rescue personnel."
Also Thursday night, Congressman David E. Price received the CFSI Legislator of the Year Award.
As Chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee in the 110th Congress, Price has persistently advocated for funding on behalf of our nation's first responders, resulting in millions of dollars allocated for the fire service. He has vowed to continue his work to ensure that our domestic defenders receive the funding they need, Webb said in a prepared statement.
Price said he was honored to be recognized by the fire service. Saying he knows what first responders are up against, he vowed to fight for funds so they stay well-equipped for the job.
The record 2,500 people also applauded the work of Nancy J. Trench, assistant director of fire protection publications at Oklahoma State University.
Trench, who received the Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education, has spearheaded a number of projects to reduce fires.
She challenged the audience to make fire and life safety education a priority.
Webb also took several moments to honor Art Glatfelter, an original member of the CFSI board.
Glatfelter, who announced recently he was stepping down, was lauded for his many years of generosity to fire service causes on many fronts.
He also was involved in veteran and youth organizations in his native York County, Pa.