ROCKPORT — In the end, cooler heads prevailed.

Fire Chief Kirk Keating, who stepped down Tuesday and was to be honored with a final ride around town in a fire truck, ultimately got his moment in the sun after the planned ride was delayed about a half hour.

Town Administrator Mitchell Vieira said at first that Keating’s planned ride would not be held until after Jan. 31 — the formal end of Keating’s contract.

But with a crowd of approximately 50 people swelling at fire headquarters across the street from Town Hall, Vieira eventually agreed the fire truck tour of town would be a good idea.

“I’m glad we got it sorted out,” Vieira said.

Kayleigh Parsons, Keating’s daughter, said her father was stepping down because he reached the state-mandated retirement age of 65.

“He’ll be leaving with 40 years of service to the town of Rockport,” said Parsons. “Growing up, he has always been so ambitious to be on the Rockport Fire Department.”

During that time, Keating’s wife, Cheryl Keating, said her husband served as a firefighter, an emergency medical technician as well as chief.

“He loves the town,” she said. “He has always wanted to give back and I think working on the ambulances (as an EMT) and as chief, he’s done it.”

Selectmen discussed the impending vacancy at the top of Fire Department at their last meeting. The fire chief must be a member of the three-member Board of Fire Engineers, appointed by selectmen, and the town has posted that vacancy. The other board members are the Assistant Chiefs Mark Wonson and Douglas Anderson.

Once the third member of the Board of Fire Engineers is appointed, selectmen will vote to elect the next fire chief at one of their upcoming meetings. Selectmen plan to interview candidates for the job during their Jan. 24 meeting.

“The selectmen look forward to honoring Chief Keating for his service at their Feb. 7 meeting,” said Viera.

For his part, Keating said the time to step aside is now.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Keating. “We’ve had a good run.”

On parade

Once the ride snafu was sorted out, Keating jumped into the cab of the fire engine, amid the cheers of dozens of family and friends who had gathered at the Rockport Fire station at 37 Broadway. Mounted on the one side of the firetruck was a banner showed Keating in uniform with the words: “Congratulations on 40 years of service to the Rockport community.”

Former police Chief Tom McCarthy was part of the crowd gathered to send off Keating.

“It’s disappointing, to say the least,” said McCarthy, moments before Keating was given the go-ahead for the ride.

Laurie McNuff, a family friend of the Keatings, was part of the crowd. She suggested the delay was nothing more than a misunderstanding.

“I don’t think anybody is trying to rain on his parade,” she said.

The procession started at the Fire Station and was planned to process down Broadway to Pigeon Cove then over to Marmion Way before making its way back to the station.

The route of the procession Tuesday brought back the memories for Keating.

“During the 40 years he’s worked for the Fire Department, there have been many fires in those areas and there have been many times they have had to assist people,” said Cheryl Keating. “He’s been so proud to have been chief for the past few years.”

‘Part of our lives’

Keating’s daughter, Kayleigh Parsons, said she and her family grew accustomed to Keating making himself available “at the drop of a hat” for sudden fire calls.

“I think it’s always hard to step down from something that you really love doing and helping your community,” said Parsons, who added firefighters like her father display a willingness to serve.

“They take the time out their day because that’s what they love to do,” said Parsons. “He’s always been the type of person who was always there for you, whether it was just to talk to you or talk about what made him want to be a firefighter.”

Parsons said it is difficult to grasp the notion her father will no longer lead the Rockport Fire Department.

“It’s real hard,” she said. “I’m really proud of his service. It’s always been a big part of our lives.”

Keating himself has juggled life as a volunteer firefighter with being a partner with Bruce Rowell at the electrical firm Bayside Electric. He has also worked as director of buildings and grounds at the Rockport School Department.

Parsons said her father was recently was honored by the Rockport Rotary Club with its Paul Harris Award. In addition to his years of fire service, he also attended the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services in Stowe.

The next step for her husband will hopefully be in Rockport, said Cheryl Keating. She added her husband has worked well in the past with the selectmen and Vieira.

“I think he’s like to continue working in Rockport in some way,” she said.

Stephen Hagan can be reached at 978-675-2708 or at shagan@northofboston.com.

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