Boston's First Latino Fire Chief Ignites Criticism Over Handling Of Bombings

Boston's first Latino fire chief has come under heavy criticism over the way he handled the city’s marathon bombings.

About 13 out of 14 of Steve Abraira's deputies have called out their chief for his lack of leadership during the harrowing ordeal.

"His justification for failing to take action is indefensible."

- Boston deputy fire chiefs

The deputy chiefs wrote a letter to Mayor Tom Menino dated April 26 saying that the Miami native failed to assume command when he showed up at the scene of the April 15 explosions that killed three and injured more than 260.

"You can unequivocally consider this letter a vote of no confidence in Chief Abraira," the deputy chiefs wrote.

The deputies said his response was the latest in a pattern of not taking command during emergencies and shielding himself from accountability. They said Abraira has reversed decades of protocol by not taking command as his predecessors did.

"His justification for failing to take action is indefensible," the deputies wrote.

Abraira told "The Boston Globe” his underlings had control of the scene when he arrived and he acted appropriately.

“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,” he said. “None of those things were in fact happening.”

Abraira, who was hired in November 2011, said the deputy chiefs are upset because he came from outside the department. The city's first Latino chief, Abraira is of Cuban, Spanish, and Italian heritage, he previously led the Dallas department, where he resigned under pressure over the philosophical differences with the city manager, and the Palmetto Bay, Fla., fire department. Before become chief, he spent over 26 years at the Miami fire department.

Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser, while not addressing the letter directly, said he has confidence in his entire command staff, including Abraira.

A spokeswoman for Menino said the mayor has “full confidence in Commissioner Fraser to do what's best for the department,” including his personnel decisions.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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