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Boston Fire Chief accused of incompetence in wake of marathon bombing

Published time: May 15, 2013 19:29
Steve Abraira (Image from cityofboston.gov)

Steve Abraira (Image from cityofboston.gov)

Boston Fire Chief Steve Abraira has been condemned by 13 out of 14 of his deputies, who are calling for his immediate termination for his “indefensible” leadership during the Boston Marathon bombings.

In a letter of “no confidence” sent to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, the 13 deputies accuse their chief of failing to take command of the Boyston Street bombing site, leaving the task fully to his inferiors while he stood idly by.

The deputies also allege that in another instance where they were responding to a six-alarm fire, they witnessed their boss standing on a rooftop and watching. Instead of directing the response to the fire, the chief was allegedly taking photos of himself with flames in the background for “his scrapbook”

“His justification for failing to take action is indefensible,” the deputies wrote in the April 26 letter, which the Boston Globe obtained. “…You can unequivocally consider this letter a vote of no confidence in Chief Abraira.”

Runners continue to run towards the finish line of the Boston Marathon as an explosion erupts near the finish line of the race in this photo exclusively licensed to Reuters by photographer Dan Lampariello after he took the photo in Boston, Massachusetts, April 15, 2013 (Reuters / Dan Lampariello)

The deputy chiefs argue that after the Boston Marathon attack, Abraira uselessly stood by as a spectator while the rest of the fire crew was “heavily involved” in the scene, searching the area for suspicious packages, additional explosives, and checking buildings for structural damage.

The deputies claim that Abraira frequently “shields himself from immediate accountability while setting the stage for undermining the confidence and authority of his command staff. While acknowledging his ultimate accountability for department operations, he avoids on-the-scene responsibility.”

A woman embraces a Boston Firefighter shortly before a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings marking a week to the day of the bombings at a memorial on Boylston Street in Boston, Massachusetts April 22, 2013 (Reuters / /Jessica Rinaldi)

In an interview with the Globe, Abraira denied the allegations, claiming he responded appropriately at the bombing sites. He said that chiefs are not required to take command of a scene, according to information he obtained from other big city fire departments.

“When I got there I was comfortable with what was going on,” he said. “…The nationally accepted practice is that you only take command [as chief] if there’s something going wrong or if you can strengthen the command position or if it’s overwhelming for the incident commander, and none of those things were in fact happening.”

Abraira also denied having ever taken pictures of himself while neglecting his duties, calling the accusation “just crazy”. He contended that his deputies are protesting his leadership because he came from outside the department. Abraira previously led the Dallas fire department and served as an assistant fire chief in Miami.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said she has “full confidence in [Fire] Commissioner [Roderick] Fraser to do what’s best for the department.” Neither Fraser nor the mayor’s office publicly commented on the letter sent by the 13 fire chief deputies.