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'One hell of a ride': Veteran local firefighter hangs up gear

Doug 'Doc' Woodcock stepped up to help during the F4 tornado in 1985 and a year later joined the Bradford fire department, where he served in various roles until this week

A distinguished career, spanning 38 years with the Bradford Fire Department, has come to an end for Doug 'Doc' Woodcock, who has hung up his helmet.

His journey began a year before he officially joined the department.

On Friday, May 31, 1985, a violent F4 tornado wreaked havoc in the Holland Marsh region. At the time, Bradford operated as a fully volunteer fire department, and Woodcock's involvement started through his friend, former Acting Captain John Burn, and his cousin Peter Everitt, who were on duty that fateful day.

With all hands on deck, Woodcock, who owned a body shop on the main street, joined them at the station. Given a helmet and a set of boots, Woodcock embarked on his first fire call, aiding in clearing debris, restoring roads, and assisting local farmers in the aftermath. 

By August of 1986, Woodcock's dedication was officially recognized, as he was hired onto the department. He became part of a close-knit group that included well-known firefighters such as Orville Hand, Roy Saint, George Lowe, Ken Carter, and Ron Bannerman, many of whom now have Bradford streets bearing their names. 

Over the years, Woodcock has wore many hats within the fire hall. He climbed the ranks, from a firefighter to Captain in 1992, then Assistant Deputy Chief in 1995, further rising to the role of Deputy Chief in 1996.

In 1999, he temporarily stepped into the role of Acting Chief, and although he reverted to Deputy Chief after the appointment of Bob Miles, his dedication remained unwavering. Ultimately, in January 2006, following the hiring of a full-time deputy, Woodcock assumed the position of District Chief, which he held until his retirement. 

Woodcock's journey reflects the evolution of the fire department, with over three decades of service. He witnessed the transition across three different fire halls, collaborated with nine different chiefs and ten deputy chiefs, and operated on an impressive 15 fire trucks. 

Throughout his career, Woodcock was an indispensable figure during major incidents. In addition to the devastating tornado, he played a pivotal role in responding to crises such as the massive train wreck at the 12th Line, significant fires on Bridge Street that engulfed multiple businesses, fires at Dominion Farms, numerous marsh barn fires, and more recent catastrophes including the multi-tanker explosion on Highway 400, the Holland Street apartment fire, and the fire at a hotel under construction.

Beyond his role as a firefighter, Woodcock contributed significantly to the department's growth. He organized auto extrication competitions, facilitated trips to fire conventions in Baltimore and Syracuse, and actively participated in seminars and learning experiences at the Ontario Fire College. 

As the third generation of his family to serve in the Bradford Fire Department, Woodcock's retirement marks both the end of an era and the continuation of a legacy. Reflecting on his journey, he leaves behind a heartfelt message: "It's been one hell of a ride." 

The Bradford Fire Department, along with the entire community, salutes Woodcock for his dedication and wishes him well in his well-deserved retirement.