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The End of the Fire Service's "Killer B's"

Back in the early 1990s, the Pittsburgh Pirates had Barry Bonds, Bobby Boniilla and Jay Bell and we affectionately here in Pittsburgh, admired them as our “Killer Bs”. And later in the 1990’s, the Houston Astros also were known to have the “Killer Bs”, with Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell at the center of attention then. I am at the tail end of the baby boomer generation and I’ve always said that my generation yielded some of the best sports players of all time. I joined the fire service as a junior firefighter in 1980 and firmly believe that some of my local leaders and the national leaders that I grew up with, were some of the finest that the fire service could offer. Having said that, with Chief Brunacini’s passing, I think we have lost the last of the nation’s fire service’s “Killer B’s”.  To me, these 3 knocked it out of the park.

Many years ago, there was an old naval firefighter (Chief of Fire Protection), by the name of Francis Brannigan. He started his career in the 1930s and up until his death in 2006, was always preaching or writing about building construction and pre-planning. His well-known mantra, for those who will recall with me was, “Know thy enemy”. He wrote articles for Fire Engineering and wrote “Building Construction for the Fire Service”. The fourth edition of that book had been completed before he passed and was published after his death. The knowledge instilled by him in building construction, even at the very simplest level, contributed to good engine company operations and incident strategy. Also in 2006, the fire service lost Chief Tom Brennan. I can recall that when he wrote his articles titled “Random Thoughts”. That was one of the first articles I read and that the article was always towards the back of the magazine. It seems fitting now that at the time that the best was saved for last. Chief Brennan was a “truckie” by trade, who later became a fire chief. He was a forward thinker. He spoke of the company officer as being a “dying breed”, because of manpower issues. And here we are in 2017, especially in the volunteer setting, talking about recruitment and retention of firefighters. He spoke about company officers having to foot the ladder or backing up the nozzleman. He also said that the company officer better be a good "tactician". And to me that meant that the company officer better have some strategy talent and learn to do more with less, until more could arrive to assist.

And finally, on Sunday, October 15th, 2017, we lost Chief Alan Brunacini. He spoke and wrote about fireground operations, leadership and incident command. Among other things, he was known for his down and dirty theory that if you have big fire, you need big water. And that if you have a little fire, you need little water. “Big fire, big water.” “Little fire, little water.” Such small phrases that had tremendous value, whether you were the initial engine company officer or the overall incident commander. In my humbled personal opinion, when you learned from any or all of these chiefs back in the day, you were educated in situational awareness before it became the buzzword that it is today. If you haven’t read one of their articles or books, buy one and share it or get to a library and submerge yourself in their works. These 3 leaders willingly shared their wealth of knowledge and experience, in the field and with their pen. While their legacies will live on, thanks to those books they wrote, they are and will be sorely missed. RFB. Chief Bruno, say Hi to them for us. Rest in peace and thank you !

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