Boston fire chief resigns amid charges of losing control of marathon bombing scene

By David Ferguson
Monday, June 3, 2013 19:04 EDT
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Boston Fire Chief Steve E. Abraira via City of Boston
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Boston Fire Chief Steve E. Abraira resigned Monday amid heavy criticism of his management practices and his handling of the bombing of the Boston Marathon. According to Boston.com, Abraira, the first fire chief in Boston’s history who was hired from outside the city’s local hierarchy of stations and districts, clashed with his deputy commanders during and after the bombing and will be replaced in the interim by Deputy Chief John Hasson.

In a resignation letter dated June 3, Abraira wrote to Boston’s Mayor Thomas M. Menino, “Your selection of me as Chief never had the support of a number of members of the Department who preferred that the Chief be selected from within the ranks of the Department itself. I think it is also fair to say that unfortunately a vocal and aggressive minority of the members of the Department did not support our efforts.”

Abraira maintains that he is being forced out of his position after only two years on the job by a concerted effort on the part of the deputy chiefs. The deputies wrote a letter to the mayor on April 26 detailing what they saw as Abraira’s failings in his handling of the bombing. The letter was leaked to the press, setting an already tense situation alight into a full-on war of words.

The deputy chiefs contend that Abraira lost control of the bombing scene when he stood down and ceded authority to law enforcement officials. The deputies also contend that Abraira has acted more as a spectator at the scene of major fires rather than coordinating and directing the department’s response as his predecessors did.

Abraira countered that nationally, most urban fire chiefs have the option to take command of a large fire scene or not. He said that his command team had the bombing scene under control when he arrived and felt this his performance on the day of the attack was satisfactory.

Abraira responded on Thursday of last week with a letter from his attorney threatening to sue the deputy command staff if they continue to make “defamatory attacks” against him.

In a response to the deputies, Abraira’s lawyer, Louis M. Ciavarra wrote, ““Your conduct is nothing more than a transparent effort to hide the inadequacies of your own performance and to interfere with my client’s efforts to improve the Boston Fire Department.”

The deputy chiefs’ attorney, Joseph G. Donnellan, responded in a statement that the lawsuit threat was an attempt to intimidate the deputy chiefs from testifying at a Boston City Council hearing on the matter on June 18.

Abraira’s last day on the job will be Friday, June 6.

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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