The sirens began wailing at approximately 1:30 p.m. March 30. Not long afterward, more than 25 emergency vehicles proceeded down Route 1 from Camden Street to the Samoset Resort in honor of outbound Fire Chief Bruce Woodward, whose retirement the previous day capped 42 years of service to the town of Rockport.

Woodward, a man Islesboro fire chief Murton Durkee called "the father of the fire chiefs," was honored with a day of festivities that included a pancake breakfast, parade and an open to the public retirement party at the Samoset Resort.

Vehicles that participated in the parade hailed from Camden Exxon, Owls Head Transportation Museum and Rockport town vehicles as well as representatives of emergency services from more than 14 towns.

According to Samoset Food and Beverage Manager David Day, the afternoon party  — which featured a buffet, several cakes and ladder truck ice sculpture — drew more than 300 attendees.

A slide show of news articles and photographs was displayed early in the proceedings, while Woodward received a line of a line of well-wishers that included emergency personnel, officials from several towns and community members from throughout the Midcoast.

Camden First Aid Association Director Julia Libby said Woodward was a "well-respected gentleman" who will be difficult to replace.

"I've enjoyed every moment that I've worked with him," Libby said, adding Woodward was always available whenever she communicated with Rockport emergency services personnel.

State Rep. Joan Welsh, D-Rockport, called Woodward "a wonderful human being and helper," and said Rockport was "lucky to have him in our community."

Longtime associate and Camden attorney Paul Gibbons said Woodward was a "really kindhearted person who affected a lot of people."

The retirement party featured souvenir squirt bottles, which former Camden Fire Chief Robert Oxton said were inspired by an incident during which Woodward extinguished a blaze using a similar item.

Speakers characterized Woodward as an even-tempered man who emphasized education, and frequently used pragmatic solutions in firefighting and prevention. Several individuals mentioned spending hours in Woodward's "learning chair."

Rockland Fire Chief Charlie Jordan recounted hours of making sauerkraut with Woodward, and thanked Woodward's wife Jennifer for her support.

"We owe you a debt of gratitude and a big thanks," Jordan said.

Woodward's son Andrew Bruce Woodward said he was "so proud" to share his father's name, adding that he had likely responded to more than 1,000 emergency service calls alongside his father.

"I use a lot of the lessons…that my dad's taught me over the years in my career as a fire protection engineer," the younger Woodward said. "We both are making this world a safer place."

Chief Woodward was named an honorary lifetime Hope fireman during the March 30 party, and was honored with lifetime achievement award from the 126th Maine Legislature, a town of Rockport resolution naming March 30 Bruce Woodward Day, plaques for both Woodward and Rockport Fire Station, framed photographs, a fireman weather vane, and the gift of a trip to Yellowstone National Park with his wife.

"I have tried, through all of this, to teach, educate these firefighters to be able to think and make decisions as part of a team," Woodward said, adding such cohesion "doesn't happen overnight."

Woodward thanked his family, and fellow firefighters for their influence in his life.

"You are my heroes," Woodward said.

Camden Herald reporter Bane Okholm can be reached at 236-8511 ext. 304 or by email at bokholm@courierpublicationsllc.com.