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UPDATED: Boston Fire Chief Steve Abraira resigns. Read resignation letter citing ‘baseless attacks by the Deputy Chiefs’.

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Chief Abraira threaten to sue deputy chiefs

 Below is the resignation letter from Boston Fire Department Chief Steve E. Abraira:

Dear Mayor Menino and Commissioner Fraser: 

            Please accept this letter as my formal letter of resignation.  While I have privately informed both of you of my intention to resign as Chief of the Boston Fire Department effective June 7, 2013, I want to emphasize my sincere and everlasting appreciation to each of you for the courage you showed appointing me Chief even though I came from outside the City of Boston Fire Department.  I also want to thank you for the support and encouragement you have each given me throughout my tenure as Chief.  Both of you, on countless occasions, have resisted both private and public efforts to undermine my authority and to compromise my ability to carry out the mission you each made clear to me from the outset.  That mission was to modernize the Boston Fire Department to better carry out its duty to serve and protect the lives and property of the citizens of Boston while simultaneously having due regard for the lives and safety of the members of the Department.  I believe it fair to say that 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.  As you know, while I remained committed to our mission, and have greatly appreciated your support, the baseless attacks by the Deputy Chiefs, especially their actions of making this a matter of public debate by leaking their letter of April 26th to the press, has made it impossible for me to continue to do my job.  The changes we have implemented, and those that are left, require the active support of the Deputy Chiefs; we cannot do it alone and, especially, I cannot do my job when their primary focus is on attacking me personally and misrepresenting my actions and our mission. 

As of close of business, Friday, June 7, 2013, my personal effort to improve and modernize the Boston Fire Department will be over. 

There is nothing in this life or in any profession, particularly in the fire service, that is constant. Instead, technology and advances in science mean that traditions of the fire service at a subsequent time must always be constantly reevaluated and changed if necessary in light of the present.  I believe I did my best to promote policies within the Boston Fire Department that safeguard the lives and safety of both firefighters and the citizens of this wonderful city. I enjoyed the support of a great Mayor and Fire Commissioner and I did my very best to make and support the changes I thought were necessary. 

I wish each of you, the City and the Department nothing but future success.  Thank you.                                                                                               


Steve Abraira, M.A., CFO, MIFireE

Chief of Department

Boston Fire Department

Andrew Ryan, The Boston Globe via

Boston Fire Chief of Department Steve E. Abraira resigned Monday after less than two years on the job following a clash with his command staff over his management style and handling of the Boston Marathon bombings, officials said.

Abraira had been the first chief in the history of the Boston Fire Department hired from outside of its own union. In recent weeks, Abraira came under attack from his 13 deputy chiefs, who have all risen through the department’s ranks.

The deputy chiefs sent a letter to Mayor Thomas M. Menino in late April accusing Abraira of failing to show leadership after the bombings because he did not take control of the scene and left it in the hand of law enforcement.

Dave Wedge, Boston Herald:

“Chief Abraira is resigning effective Friday,” Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser said this morning.

Abraira has come under fire from his underlings after he refused to take charge at the Boston Marathon bombing scene. As first reported by the Herald, 13 deputy chiefs signed a letter in April blasting Abraira for not taking command at the April 15 bombing, as well as at other major fires.


In a letter sent to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino last month, the deputies wrote that Chief Abraira showed no leadership following the Boston Marathon bombings and acted more like a spectator than a fire chief, reports the newspaper.

Abraira denied the claims and his attorney says they are prepared to file a suit and says using the bombing as a platform to oust the chief is “outrageous.”

Abraira was hired on Dec. 5, 2011.

Commissioner Roderick Fraser has appointed Chief of Operations John Hasson, a 40-year veteran, as the acting Chief of Department.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Pipeman27

    LRB next?

  • Barney Miller

    “Chief Abraira showed no leadership following the Boston Marathon bombings and acted more like a spectator than a fire chief, reports the newspaper.” Well here nor there, I know of a Chief that couldn’t command a ham sandwich out of a paper bag if there was a candle next to it. At least their problem is GONE! Maybe we are lucky that he doesn’t take command at emergencies…..hmmmmmm, based on his record, my department is pretty lucky to have one part of our job ( the important part) minimally affected . Good luck in the future Jakes!

  • Fire21

    Knowing extremely little about the BFD, the union, or the squabble, I’ll just say this: Best of luck, Chief, in your future endeavors. Thanks for trying.

  • RJ in florida

    I guess the “senators” got Caesar they way they wanted

    who’s next?

  • Jeff Dostalek

    So you gave in? If they are baseless attacks then why would you resign your position as Chief. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

    • BFC Tommy

      chief Ellerbe in DC hides under his desk :)

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t taken the time to look into this beyond what’s been written in the few articles Dave’s posted on here, but something doesn’t smell right here. This was a terrorist attack. Why in the world should the police not be the lead agency in a unified command in a terror attack? Even if you want to debate the issue, it is at least an issue for debate and not a black & white failure that he did not assume command.

    I think this was just used as an excuse in the media to attack him, thinking the public not informed enough regarding unified command to call bullshit on it. I’m also guessing that whatever the real issue, it probably wouldn’t pass the smell test of public scrutiny (or at least public opinion). It may be legit, but not something the public would see as a problem…or it may be something else. But the bombing command rings completely hollow if you ask me.

    • dave statter

      It wasn’t the media that attacked him.

      • Anonymous

        Sorry…badly worded due to a lack of coffee and multi-tasking. What I meant to write was that it was an excuse to attack him (by the deputy chiefs) in the public media arena.

    • BFC Tommy

      um, yea dum dum lets let BPD take command of an MCI…. perhaps you should go back to your DC ambo, slick back that relaxed-doo and just keep your mouth shut… when you understand ICS then you will realize BPD and BFD both had IC in place, focusing on 2 different concerns, blah blah blah finish your ICS training.

      • Anonymous

        If its an MCI then EMS should be the one leading the incident… You know, since no one’s on fire or shooting anything… ;) Let the hose jockeys stick to cutting things and putting wet stuff on red stuff, that seems to be enough of a challenge for them :P

        Im kidding, sorta, my point is this; it doesn’t matter who is in charge or can pee the furthest, as long as victims of an MCI receive good care. Look at the transport times/patient survival for these trauma patients and it infers that the incident went very well. Who cares who was in charge?? Apparently no one but the Boston deputy chiefs.

  • mark

    Very interesting.

    I still fail to see the issue of him not assuming command after the bombing. That accusation sounded completely bogus to me. That size of a department, chiefs are administrative and political, not incident commanders. Should they have the ability? Yes, but if the subordinates are doing fine, why screw it up?

    Anyone want to bet if he had assumed command the DC’s would have bitched about that as well?

    Jeff, while I tend to agree, I think it is probably a case of being impossible to lead effectively after their letter and after him threatening to sue the DC’s. Could be wrong.

    • Jeff Dostalek

      Mark..There are many times that decisions are not popular. My two cents.. He is the chief, if those under him can not support the mission then they should be reassigned to positions that have no influence on the direction of the department. Or he should request their resignations. I have not heard negative comment from the rank and file members and the citizens of Boston. Those are his employers..Not the Chiefs.

  • stuart

    So while Boston Police and Boston EMS have received much positive attention from their actions after the tragedy…Boston Fire has found a way to create negative news from it…on their own. An odd PR strategy by the chiefs.

    • Anonymous

      I guess they were feeling left out. ;)

      While I’ve seen a few comments that draw parallels to the situation in DC, I have seen nothing in the reports to indicate that the rank & file have turned on him. If this turns out to be nothing more than a union political attack because they didn’t like the fact that one of their own was not elevated, I sincerely hope city leadership quickly sends all of the involved deputy chiefs packing after this.

      • anonymous

        That’s exactly what it was.Hundred’s of years of tradition unimpeded by progress.The B.F.D. wasn’t the headliner for the incident so they had to do whatever to get attention.

  • BFC Tommy

    The worthless lump of coal in WASHINTON DC should learn a lesson from this. He is unable to command a fireground or MCI, does not know basics of ICS, is unsure of staffing and number of apparatus in DC, suffers sever mental health issues, is afraid to show his face in the firehouse, is unwelcome in hospitals to visit injured firefighters, would be completely ignored if we had a firefighter funeral in DC, is destroying EMS in the city, can not comprehend the need for planning for emergencies (once said “we can’t plan for emergencies because we never know when they might happen”) and is the biggest racist pig the department has ever known. CHIEF ELLERBE, BE A MAN LIKE THIS CHIEF AND RETIRE. Take your pay and go, NO OTHER DEPARTMENT (UNLESS RUN BY A CORRUPT, anti- white mayor) would hire you!!! PS the deputies here hate you too, they are just afraid to say it because you will demote and humiliate them.

    • DC LT

      One thing for certain BFC Tommy,which I highly doubt you are….is that this chief has the backing of his leadership. Members here just want it back like it was…which was f@@kup.
      We have a lot of issues but they didn’t just start yesterday

      You want a chief who just sits there as a figure head like the others huh?. This guy is far more intelligent than any chief I can remember…I may not agree with everything he does but I genuinely believe he’s trying to do right by the community.

      I’m quite sure whom ever you are….there are some that call you all sorts of names…..and you’re probably not welcome at some members hospital beds either.

      The problem is with members like you….your an officer but you carry yourself and think like a private. The racism didn’t start with Ellerbe….it came from your forefathers who tried to keep firefighters like him off the job in the name of tradition.

      Well you better get use to it….because this isn’t Boston…DC is a gritty town and its leaders know the history and have a pulse of this department.I don’t want this department to go back to yester-year. Lets move forward for the best of the community..and if the heat is to hot for you chief tommy….just retire and go back home

      • 20 year capt

        “Doing right by the community”

        That’s what you call it? There’s a laundry list of things Kenny has done,but none of them have improved fire protection or EMS.

        Here’s what he’s done: created a bunch of vacancies and hired a smaller-so-far bunch of mostly-city-resident cadets.

        I’m guessing you have a pretty narrow definition of “the community”.

      • Ted

        So our white forefathers kept African Americans out of the fire service, so that is a great reason to tolerate a racist African American fire chief in 2013.

        So with that logic, when does it (racism) end – never?

  • ThatGuy

    This guy has come under fire once and he resigns. Washington DC’s fire chief screws up on a weekly basis and still does not step down. The day Ken Ellerbe leaves the Nations Capital is the day humanity will be restored to thousands of lives…..


      You can’t comment about him unless you live within a mile of Alabama Ave SE and have never associated with anyone outside your comfort zone…basically…if you’re from Pa, WV etc…shut

  • Marlin

    I would have fired the 13 dinasours …

  • BeenThereDoneThat

    I’ve been in the Fire Service for over 40 years and I smell a skunk. Looks to me like you guys are pissed off because your city fathers picked someone who didn’t come up through your department. Does that make him a bad Chief, I don’t think so. Your just afraid of changing things that might actually help your department come out of the stone age. Shame on you for crucifying and blackballing a good man.

  • http://helpus! jhq

    The guy from Washington sounds like the guy incharge in Philadelphia.

  • Pedro

    No matter which way you attempt to place the blame, the end of the story is an absence of leadership. You could say “square peg in a round hole”. Nothing wrong with the peg perse. I believe it was quoted that BFD has a long standing tradition of the highest ranking officer present at any fire, ALWAYS assumed command. It was reported that he did not abide by this tradition on several occasions, at large multiple alarm fires. Whether this practice is wrong or right is up to the KIC’s to argue over. But it’s obvious that it was/is a tradition, perhaps even, a sign of taking charge, and leading from the front. His lack of ownership over this tradition, or outright rejection of it, could have been one of the things which eroded his ability to properly lead the BFD into the types of reforms he envisioned. In this most recent case, the Boston Marathon Bombing, his actions (not assuming command of the BFD) were interpreted by his subordinates as such…Whether wrong or right, justified or not…lessons learned.

  • ukfbbuff

    It appears that their was some undercurrent in the Boston Chief.

    Sorry to read that he is retiring. True, the issue of his suing his Deputy Chief’s over some operational item/s sounds unusual but it would have been informative to all to find what they were.

    If he tended to delegate Incident Operations as outlined under ICS/NIIMS and did it consistently, maybe the DC’s didn’t understand what he was doing in some respects.

    But now, we’ll never know what was happening.

    I hope Steve Abraira a good retirement and that the BFD is able to find a new Chief that they can have a better working relationship with.

  • BH

    This was inevitable the day he was hired. Educated, progressive Chief brought in from outside to lead a department over 300 years old, managing by 14 DCs who didn’t get the job.

    That said, publicly threatening to sue 13 of your subordinates because they said mean things about you is not indicative of inspired leadership.

  • The52nd

    This isn’t about not taking command at the Marathon, or other incidents. There is more to the story, and the deputies are just grabbing at what appears to be the most high profile issues is my guess. I can’t believe none of you sparkies knows anyone on BFD, and has made a phone call to get the real story.

  • Jeff Dostalek

    Chief Steve Abraira if you’re listening, it appears that you may have made a bad choice in resigning from the Department. If your listening Mayor Menino and Commissioner Fraser you should promply recind the resignation and take the necessary step to reassign the Deputy Chiefs. They apparently do not have the best interest of the department or the citizens of Boston in mind. If you truely support Chief Abraira then stand up for your guy and back him, not push him aside at the request of a few self serving members of the department. Shame on you!

  • Anonymous

    I think this is more of away to get him out and get one of their “own” back in.

    I work in a very large paid dept with several other large depts in surrounding counties. The fire chief’s rarely if ever take command on large disasters or incidents. It is normally their command staff (hence the name)that are leading. On the very large incidents, I have seen the Fire Chiefs stay in the shadows, working with the high ranking politicians to get needed support/funding and the occassional media interview explaining how their dept is handling the incident.

  • Jeff Dostalek

    And one more things while I am on a rant.. For me, this is not about taking command at a fire scene or terrorist attack. For me, this is about leadership, or the lack there of, on so many levels. Maybe the discussion should be about leadership, taking responsibility for mistakes and moving forward. Not running and allowing those that are self serving to decide the fate of a great department. Done….Thanks

  • Big Mose

    Way to go, Boston Fire. Air your dirty laundry in public.

    No wonder the Mayor has it in for you guys. Be critical of his selection. Grow up and cooperate and maybe next time one of you guys will get to be Chief.