Thirteen deputy fire chiefs in Boston are calling for their boss to be fired over his handling of the Marathon bombing, saying that he did not take control of the situation.
Thirteen of the city’s fourteen deputy fire chiefs co-signed a letter telling that they have no confidence in Fire Chief Steve Abraira.
The Boston Globe obtained the letter that they wrote to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino on April 26, just 11 days after the bombings at the finish line of the marathon killed three people and injured more than 250 others.
They argue that he did not take ownership of the chaotic scene when he arrived, choosing instead to allow the various deputies to lead and did not take charge himself.
“His justification for failing to take action is indefensible,” they wrote.
The Boston Globe spoke with Steve Abraira who defended his actions, saying that is a “nationally accepted practice” for the top chief to continue to allow his deputies to handle the situation if everything seems to be working, rather than insert themselves into a situation that is already being controlled.
“When I got there I was comfortable with what was going on,” Steve Abraira told The Globe.
“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.”
The deputies- with the exception of one who did not sign the no-confidence letter- said that this is not the first time they have been disappointed by Steve Abraira’s actions.
They even mention an instance where there was a six-alarm fire in a Boston building and after he allegedly cleared the scene of being under control by the deputies, Steve Abraira went to the roof of the building next door to take a picture of himself with the flames in the background for his scrapbook.
Steve Abraira vehemently denied the story to The Globe, saying that it never happened.
One thing he doesn’t deny is that he changed the department’s protocol when he came into office in November 2011, making it so that he would not automatically become the so-called “incident commander” at a fire as soon as he arrived.
He justified the move saying that before changing the operating procedure, he polled 29 other city fire departments around the country and the only one that still made the Fire Chief the incident commander was in New Haven, Connecticut.
His deputies don’t see the move as one out of public safety but more out of self-preservation.
“[Steve Abraira] 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,” they wrote in the letter.
So far, Boston higher powers have been supportive of Steve Abraira, who made history by being the city’s first Hispanic fire chief.
Fire commissioner Roderick Fraser told The Globe that he had “the utmost confidence in my entire staff, my entire command staff, including Chief Abraira”, and a spokesman for Mayor Menino said that he had “full confidence” in Fraser.