Boston fire chief resigns under fire over bomb response

BOSTON Mon Jun 3, 2013 1:38pm EDT

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BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston Fire Chief Steve Abraira resigned on Monday, citing public criticism from his deputies over his response to the deadly Boston Marathon bombings.

Abraira's deputies complained in a letter to the mayor that their chief had failed to assume command when he reached the scene at the race's finish line on April 15, where twin pressure-cooker bombs had exploded in a crowd of thousands. Three people were killed and 264 others injured.

Abraira had said he followed "nationally accepted practice" in allowing his deputies to continue to direct the response.

"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," Abraira said in his resignation letter on Monday.

Abraira, who served in Dallas before his appointment as Boston Fire Chief in 2011, said he never felt that he had full support of the department, which has typically been led by chiefs selected from within its ranks.

A copy of the letter was sent to Reuters.

Mayor Thomas Menino's office confirmed it had received the resignation letter but said it had no immediate comment. Menino, who is in the final year of a two-decade run as mayor, had previously said he would stand by Abraira.

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 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.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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