Boston Fire Department Hires First Hispanic Chief

The Boston Fire Department's new number two, Steve Abraira, is the city's first Hispanic chief and comes to Boston after a storied career in Miami and a controversial exit in Dallas, where he says he was squeezed out by a new regime.

"A new city manager came in, and she wanted to build her own team," Abraira, 56, said. "She and I didn't see eye-to-eye. She wanted to make a change, so I retired."

Abraira, who followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Miami Fire Department at age 19, left Dallas in 2005 after five years as chief. He has since served as chief in Palm Bay, Fla., until Wednesday, when he was tapped to be Boston Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser's second in command.

Abraira said he's aware of the issues that have dogged the BFD, and he hailed the department's strict new drug-testing policy.

"We've got to be above reproach," Abraira said. "We're going into people's homes at their worst times. We're handling heavy pieces of equipment. You've got to be on your toes."

Boston firefighters union Local 718 president Richard Paris met Abraira yesterday and said: "I'm concerned with the safety of my firefighters and the citizens of the city of Boston. I hope we can work together and bring this job into the future."

Abraira succeeds former Chief Ronald Keating, who retired in October after 41 years on the job.

Fraser, who chose Abraira over 49 other candidates, including five Boston chiefs, said Abraira has "all good qualities in a leader."

McClatchy-Tribune News Service