Feud Causes Rift at Arizona Fire Department

Bob Khan and Nick Brunacini were high-school pals who became closer than brothers.

The second column closes with a speech from a "mutual friend" of Khan and Nick Brunacini.

The friend says, according to Nick's column, "Anyone who had lunch with your dad in the last 30 days got sent to the four winds . . . [T]he thing that has troubled me is that you were Bob's best friend. Even more frightening is what Bob has done to your old man . . .

"If he treats the people he claims to love that way, what will he do to the rest of us? This is some real fucked up Fredo Corleone shit."

Before her retirement, Brunacini's old secretary, Kathi Hilms, talked to Chief Khan. She says he confessed that if he had known that taking the chief's job would have so altered his relationship with the Brunacinis, he would never have accepted the position.

Alan Brunacini has heard that story. But to him, it only makes things worse.

"If he feels that way," he says, "why didn't he do something when he could? It's too late now. Why didn't you save my life when it was savable? Why wait until after I drowned?"

In an interview with New Times at his office in February, Khan was happy to discuss what he's done so far, as chief. He dismissed talk that he'd been forced to do anything: "Nobody held a gun to my head to do any of this."

But he's noticeably less voluble when the subject of Brunacini comes up. He says, finally, that he's not happy that Brunacini is upset.

"He's a father figure to me," Khan says. "To have a disagreement with someone like that is hard, sure."

But when it comes to his old best friend, Nick, Khan doesn't want to say anything.

"I'm a fire chief," he says. "I have no response."

There's an uncomfortable pause. Khan shifts in his chair.

"I'm the fire chief," he says. "I'm going to run the fire department."