MILBRIDGE — There is one fire chief in Maine who has held the post longer than any other. Milbridge Fire Chief Peter Sawyer retired Monday after more than six decades protecting the community.
“Thank you for your 61 years of service, including 55 years as chief of the Milbridge Fire Department,” said a dispatcher from the Washington Regional Communication Center who just happens to be his granddaughter, Brynn Jellison. “Enjoy your retirement. We have it from here. Love you pop.”
Sawyer was 21 when he joined the Milbridge fire Department, 23 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, 25 when he returned home, and 26 when he followed his dad’s footsteps and was appointed fire chief.
“I gotta thank my family for letting me dedicate that many years to the fire profession,” Sawyer said, standing outside of the firehouse.
“He has spent pretty near his whole life dedicated to this town,” said Town Manager Lewis Pinkham, who has worked with him for years. “Him and his wife actually helped start the ambulance corps and have been involved in all sorts of stuff.
Before the ambulance service was started in the early 70s, there were few options.
“The undertaker here in town used to throw a red light on his roof and plug it into the cigarette lighter and take people to Ellsworth,” Sawyer recalled, a smile spread across his face.
The fire department was named the Peter S. Sawyer Safety Complex five years ago after he had served the department for 50 years.
He said a ton has changed with fighting fires.
“It’s the breathing apparatus. I’ve been into places in the 60s without it … and it concerns you,” the longtime fire chief said. “We’ve been lucky with that. We got all new breathing equipment, SCBA, donated by a citizen here in town, which is just unreal.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the dedicated people he has spent the decades within the town and in uniform. The town has mutual aid agreements with Steuben, Cherryfield, and Harrington.
“Unbelievable people that I’ve worked with since 1960,” Sawyer said. “There’s no words to explain it other than they’re super great people.”
While Sawyer is now the former fire chief, he’ll continue on as a volunteer.