Boston fire chief criticized over bomb response has mayor's support

BOSTON Wed May 15, 2013 2:16pm EDT

BOSTON May 15 (Reuters) - A group of top Boston fire officials have criticized their chief's response to the deadly Boston Marathon bombing last month, but the mayor said on Wednesday he stood by him.

The Boston Globe reported on Wednesday that 13 of the city's 14 deputy fire chiefs had sent Mayor Thomas Menino a letter expressing no confidence in fire chief Steve Abraira, who came from Dallas, Texas in 2011, the first time an outsider was picked for that job.

"I'm the mayor of Boston and he has a future as long as I am here," Menino, who is in the final year of a two-decade run as mayor, told reporters on Wednesday.

The deputy fire chiefs said that Abraira failed to assume command when he reached the scene of the bombing at the race's finish line on April 15, where twin pressure-cooker bombs had exploded in a crowd of thousands of spectators and athletes. Three people were killed and 264 others injured.

Abraira told the Globe that he followed "nationally accepted practice" when he arrived at the scene in allowing his deputies to continue to direct the response.

Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald confirmed that Abraira had spoken to the Globe but declined further comment.

Menino said he planned to meet with the city's fire commissioner, Roderick Fraser, to ensure that Abraira's response met national standards and followed fire department protocol.

Menino said it was normal to have tension within the department.

"The fire chief is relatively new on the job, he does come from another fire department, he's an outsider and on a regular basis, when an outsider comes to the fire department you have issues," Menino said. "There is always that little tension."

The criticism of Abraira stands in contrast to praise offered to Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, who became one of the best-known faces of Boston's response.

Two ethnic Chechen brothers who lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, were identified by the FBI as suspects in the bombing. The younger of the two, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is being held at a prison hospital west of Boston after being charged with crimes carrying the possibility of the death penalty.

His older brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died in a shootout with police days after the bombing. Tamerlan had been on a U.S. government database of potential terrorism suspects. The United States had twice been warned by Russia that he might be an Islamic militant, according to U.S. security officials. (Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Grant McCool)