Chief Brunacini


My very first encounter with Chief Alan Brunacini was not what I would have hoped for. I was attending my first FDIC and was sitting through a presentation on how to submit articles to become a Fire Engineering author. Being the introvert that I am, I naturally sat in the back row while taking notes. Chief Lasky had already set the fire under my tuchas two days earlier to make a difference, so I wanted all the info I could gather. About 15 minutes into the panel discussion and older gentleman wearing a brightly colored shirt shuffles in and sits next to me (leaving a polite empty chair between us). Not long after taking a seat, he fishes through his pocket to produce a small nail clipper – which he begins to use. I take all of about 20 seconds of this before I lean over and say “sir, do you mind?” – I’m sure my face was saying “dude, for Christ’s sake, STOP!” As fate would have it, I called enough attention to the incident that Bill Manning (the head of Fire Engineering at the time), noticed the gentleman and said to all – “What a pleasure. Chief Brunacini – come on up and join us.”

I knew the esteemed name of Chief Brunacini and the importance of his lessons, now I had met the man – I sunk as far as 6’1″ could in an awkward plastic chair!

After the presentation I was slinking out of the room trying to be as inconspicuous as possible when I felt a gentle slap on my back – I turned – and Chief Brunacini was standing there chuckling. Not a word was said… just those fatherly eyes… that snarky smile… and the quiet understanding that I was a novice in the land of legends.

Nearly 14 years would pass before I would have an opportunity to teach at a conference with Chief Brunacini, and be honored to sit with him during a Q&A panel. Me… with Chief Brunacini … with Capt. Gagliano… talking fire (sound smart, sound smart, sound smart…)!

I have a few more stories, but I share this one because of what it represents about the man and his mission – about his legacy. Take time to learn, to practice, to share, and to give. Take the moments that life gives you and learn from them, grow from them, and then move on to the next moment. He died doing what he loved to do, and knowing that makes me smile.

This cartoon isn’t much, but it’s a small gesture to a larger than life man. Simply said, thank you for everything you gave us, Chief – we will pass it forward.
2014 North Carolina Firefighter’s Conference




NEW Fire Engineering October Magazine editorial cartoon: Ball and Consequences
We are reading more and more situations where firefighters are getting reprimanded, suspended, and in some cases fired for what is being shared and posted on-line. It’s a brave new world of social media horizons and we must realize that all actions have potential consequences – whether intentional or not.
Be careful what you post, brothers and sisters, because that ball of accountability can be a heavy burden.
STAY FIRED UP, and think before you hit enter.
To see more Drawn By Fire, go to:



This cartoon was never meant to be a caricature of Chief Brunacini when I drew it in 2009, but he certainly inspired it (which is why I subconsciously drew a resemblance, I suppose). A few years ago he asked me about this cartoon and said I should have drawn a festive floral shirt on the character – I was FLOORED to know he followed my work.
Last year during FDIC he was being presented with an ornamental fire helmet that was packaged in a plain brown box. I was asked to draw something on the box, which I did with pleasure. When the helmet was presented to Chief Brunacini he, as always, graciously accepted the honor and posed for photos. He looked at the box, look at me standing off to the side and pointed with a smile, and then gave me a thumbs-up in appreciation – that made my day! That was Chief Brunacini – a walking legend who always made time to show his appreciation to others. There are those who walk the halls of the fire service with their pretentious self-promoting importance (you know who you are!), but Chief Brunacini was the embodiment of what a leader should be – confident yet humble, intelligent yet a student, commanding yet gracious, experienced yet curious.
I will miss our chats at the PennWell Books booth and have several amazing memories of our conversations. Thank you for your leadership and passion, Chief – we will pass it forward!



I am excited to introduce my latest creation, TRUCK TOUGH! This brawny rhino embodies the steeled strength and tenacious resolve of ladder companies everywhere – from sprawling metro departments to small town firehouses. In 1976, Waylon Jennings wrote “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” well, in my case, my heroes have always been Truckies. My first ride in a fire truck was on a ladder, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I sincerely hope you enjoy this character’s unbreakable spirit and bold attitude, and will be eager to show your Truckie pride!
Pre-order now and get the signed and numbered 16×20″ print, plus a signed 8×10″ TRUCK TOUGH mini-print. All for $70.00 (plus shipping and handling). But don’t wait – this pre-order offer will end October 13th!
* IF PRE-ORDERED WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS, YOU WILL ALSO RECEIVE AN ADDITIONAL 11X14″ SIGNED TRUCK TOUGH PRINT! This will make a perfect gift! Offer ends tomorrow, October 7th, at 10 a.m. (EST)
To place your order for TRUCK TOUGH, just click the link below.
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Disclaimer: I am not a trained physiologist, licensed therapist, experienced marriage counselor, nor wise in the ways of relationships… I’m barely housebroken! So, posting an illustration about marital matters is more than a little uncomfortable for me, especially since my perspective here is from the robot’s point of view. I am an introvert, reserved and awkwardly quiet at times. I don’t allow many people to become close to me or show much emotion, so when I lock my emotions away, they really get locked away deep! Is this a good thing? Depends on your perspective.

First Responders interact, see and experience the worst of humanity, and to do so and still live a somewhat normal life outside the circle of fire, EMS, and police is a challenge at times. In my case, my wife wants to hear about my day and the calls that happened; she does not, however, want to know any of the details – none! So, I’m guilty of shutting off all emotions because I’ve walked in the door angry at yet another overdose where the victim’s child is calling their estranged father from the living room telling him how “mom has done it again” …or upset that my crew just worked exhaustively hard to save a life from an MVA, only to fail. This list can go on. However, my wife hasn’t earned the bad emotions that I’m still dealing with, so I’m not going to share them with her – so, it gets bottled up and I become robotic until I can function as a human being and her husband again (that’s my perspective). Unfortunately over time that on-off switch becomes harder to find, or you simply don’t want to turn your emotions back on again in fear of reliving the cause of the ill-feelings to begin with.

This illustration is intended to get a conversation started – for you, for your crew, for your family… for me and my wife. I don’t have any answers, and I certainly have not figured out how to turn off my emotional detachment switch when my wife needs for me to be in the now. I think the important thing is that I recognize that she needs me to be emotionally engaged in our marriage, and that I must find ways to separate home-life and fire-life. And after 25 years of marriage, she’s more than earned the right to demand this, though she doesn’t.

Like all-things relationship, this will be difficult, but worth fighting for. I’m trying – I will fail more than once – but I’m trying.

STAY FIRED UP, and keeping fighting for what’s important.


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