Updated: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 7:49 a.m.

By Dave Wedge

The city's embattled fire chief -- furious over criticism of his handling of the Boston Marathon bombing scene from 13 deputy chiefs -- bowed out yesterday even as a war of words escalated with the deputies slamming him for accusing them of defamation and pledging to air their grievances before the City Council.

Boston Fire Department Chief Steve Abraira, the first chief hired from outside the department, submitted his resignation just days after being publicly criticized for refusing to take command at the gruesome April 15 terror attack scene.

Abraira, who cited the deputies' no confidence vote as his reason for quitting, sent a letter to the deputy chiefs last week, threatening to slap them with a defamation suit. Yesterday, the chiefs' lawyer, Joseph Donnellan, fired back, saying "the dispute is between public officials" and was of "great public value."

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"Your general statement that my clients' words were defamatory and unlawful detracts from the very important message of the deputy chiefs' letter," Donnellan wrote.

He added that the deputy chiefs "will all be present and will offer their personal experiences with Chief Abraira" at a June 18 council hearing. "Your correspondence will not deter them from fulfilling their public duty," Donnellan wrote.

As first reported in the Herald, the deputies blasted Abraira for refusing to take command at the deadly marathon bombings, as well as at other major fires. Abraira has said he followed national standards and that his deputies had the bombing scene under control.

"I like Chief Abraira and am sorry to see him go," Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser said. "I wish him luck in whatever his next chapter may be."

Deputy Chief John Hasson -- the department's chief of operations -- has been named acting chief.

Abraira, the city's first Latino chief, will be returning to his home in Florida and does not yet have a new job, Fraser said. Fraser said "a decision hasn't been made" as to whether the chief's post will be filled from inside or outside the department.

In a letter to Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Fraser, Abraira cited the deputy chiefs' "baseless attacks" as the reason for his resignation, which is effective Friday. Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce said of Abraira: "He was a good chief. Unfortunately, it didn't work out."

Meanwhile, Fraser heads to Los Angeles today to speak at a homeland security conference. The commissioner was invited to speak by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Fraser's travel expenses are being paid for by the National Homeland Security Association, which is hosting the conference, BFD spokesman Steve MacDonald said.

(c)2013 the Boston Herald