Russell Maciel retired from the Tisbury fire department on Dec. 31, but he still goes down to the station every Sunday.

“There are a couple of chiefs that are retired. They show up [too], and we sit around and have coffee,” Mr. Maciel said on Tuesday. “So we don’t leave altogether. We always come back.”

Mr. Maciel was on the job for 44 years before stepping down from his current role as assistant chief. Daniel Feeney, a captain of the department, also retired on Dec. 31.

“Your heart always stays here,” Mr. Feeney said.

The two were honored for their service to the town during a ceremony at last week’s selectmen’s meeting. They have a combined 68 years of working in Tisbury.

Mr. Maciel joined in 1970, one of five Maciels to be on the ladder truck for the department. His father Raul was captain of the truck, and all of Mr. Maciel’s brothers — Richard, Roy and Robert — were on the truck, too. When Mr. Maciel joined, he earned $80 per year, and his gear consisted of hip boots, a protective jacket and a helmet — nothing like the estimated 40 pounds of gear each firefighter pulls on these days.

Battling the Tisbury Inn fire in 2001. — Mark Lovewell

When Raul Maciel retired in 1980, Russell and his brother Richard were elected captains of the ladder truck by the rest of the squad. Mr. Maciel was named assistant chief six years ago.

“His family’s been great with this town,” Mr. Feeney said. “His son is on [the truck] now, and there are a couple of cousins and nephews.” Mr. Maciel also has family in West Tisbury who are on the trucks.

Mr. Feeney joined the department in 1990 at the urging of a good friend. He had been on several town boards and was the vice president of the chamber of commerce in addition to his day job as owner of the Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground, but he decided to give the firefighter job a try for a year or two.

“That was 24 years ago,” Mr. Feeney said. “I find it very worthwhile. It’s a very rewarding occupation.”

Mr. Feeney said he couldn’t sleep the entire first night of retirement, thrown off by the absence of the pager that had been by his side for more than two decades.

“I kept thinking I don’t have a pager! What am I going to do? You’re always thinking these things,” he said. “It drives everybody nuts, but we live by that. It’s a constant thing.”

Mr. Maciel agreed. “When I walked out of the house with mine [to bring it in], my wife was clapping,” he said with a laugh. He has been thrown off by other absences, too. Because he was assistant chief, his pickup truck used to have a radio to tell him about every call that came into the communications center. “I see flashing lights, and I wonder what’s going on,” he said. “I used to know everything.”

Mr. Maciel and Mr. Feeney were never on the same truck, but they have been at the scene of countless fires together. Mr. Maciel and the ladder crew would work the heights, cutting holes in the roof and trying to get the house properly vented. Mr. Feeney and his crew would be stationed at ground level working to keep the fire down.

“We’re all coordinated,” Mr. Feeney said. “We can’t get mad at each other. We have to work together because if he does something when I’m not prepared for it, someone’s going to get hurt.”

Both Mr. Maciel and Mr. Feeney say bad fires are less common now than they once were. This is partly due to updated building codes that require smoke detectors in homes, and partly because new alarm systems are connected to the communications center, which protects the seasonal homes that sit unoccupied during the winter.

“You can imagine, the alarm would go off forever and nobody would show up because nobody’s in it,” Mr. Feeney said. “So a lot of times the house would just burn down.”

“You’d get to a scene, look in the sky and see the glow. Oh, this is a bad one,” Mr. Maciel said. “You’re hoping nobody’s in there.”

The small-town nature of the Vineyard often makes the emergencies personal, too.

Facing the heat during Menemsha boathouse fire in summer of 2010. — Mark Lovewell

“You might go to a car accident and you know the person,” Mr. Maciel said. “Or even a house fire.”

Sometimes, there are no people inside, but there is a family pet. Several years ago, the men were at a scene where a Labrador died because the upstairs floor where it was hiding became too hot from the fire downstairs. Once, a woman tried to run back into a building to save her cats.

When Mr. Maciel first started fighting fires 44 years ago, the men didn’t go into buildings at a scene unless they knew somebody inside needed rescue. These days, fires are fought from the inside out. Teams go in, find the source of the fire and work from there. It’s a more effective way of putting out a fire, but a far more stressful one. And not just for those who go inside the burning buildings. As their careers advanced, Mr. Maciel and Mr. Feeney were typically on the outside supervising scenes and making sure everything ran seamlessly.

“It’s a lot easier, I’ve found, from back when I was a firefighter or even a lieutenant, to put a pack on and go into a building than it was to be a captain and send other people in and risk their lives,” Mr. Feeney said.

“You’re used to going into a building and putting out the fires, and it’s hard to stand back and tell somebody else what to do, when you want to be doing it yourself,” Mr. Maciel agreed. “That’s quite a change.”

“I’m just proud nobody got hurt on our watch,” Mr. Feeney said. “No one ever got hurt.”

That was even the case during the worst fire in recent years — the 2001 blaze that destroyed the Tisbury Inn on Main street. Mr. Maciel was at the scene for 24 hours.

“When we first got there, it was 9, 9:30 at night,” he said. “The restaurant was still operating, and people kept saying they smelled something. But nobody thought anything of it because they had the fireplace going. Well, all of a sudden, smoke started coming out in different places, so they decided something was really wrong.”

Everyone in the hotel was evacuated and accounted for, but the fire crews couldn’t find the source of the growing blaze because it was in the walls and spreading from floor to floor.

“It’s open construction, so the fire went right up through the wall where the chimney had separated from a wall,” Mr. Feeney said. Oak Bluffs crews were called in to help the two Tisbury crews working on the inside.

“They were going up the stairs with the hoses, and then the stairs started to burn up,” Mr. Maciel said. Floors were starting to collapse on the Oak Bluffs’s crew side.

Mr. Feeney, then a lieutenant, was the safety officer on the scene and made the call to pull everyone out for good.

“We didn’t want to lose the building to the fire,” Mr. Feeney said. “But at that point it had smoked up so much, and the guys had been in there 12 minutes.” The men didn’t have much air in their tanks, and rather than just pull them out to reload the oxygen, Mr. Feeney chose to take the crews out entirely.

“When you’re not making headway and things just keep going downhill, you just gotta make that decision,” Mr. Maciel said. Mr. Feeney agonized about making that call — the owners of the inn are good friends of his — but was reassured by Richard Clark, the chief at the time, that he had done the right thing.

“That was the worst decision and the best decision I ever made,” Mr. Feeney said.

Earlier that same year, Tisbury had been called to help out Oak Bluffs in another winter fire — the historic Norton house on Ocean Park caught fire in February.

“That was a long night,” Mr. Feeney said. “By the time we got there, the flames were out the roof . . . they were afraid they’d lose the whole Camp Ground, the back of town.”

“You just try to save everything around it,” Mr. Maciel said. “All of the towns work [well] together in a big fire scene.”

Tisbury was also on hand during the Menemsha boathouse fire in the summer of 2010.

“We had a number of guys from different towns who had heat exhaustion that day,” Mr. Feeney said. In those situations, it is the emergency medical technicians who come to the aid of the firefighters.

“They take guys out of circulation, sit them down, take their blood pressure, give them stuff to drink,” Mr. Maciel said. “They make them sit for a while and cool down, because you get excited.

“I remember going into one that used to be the Ford garage,” Mr. Maciel said. It was the first building he’d ever gone into as a new firefighter, and he went in with a couple of Engine One guys.

“You go in there with your Scott pack, your adrenaline is going, your heart is pumping, and you’re going through your air . . . next thing you know the alarm on your tank is going off telling you your oxygen is low on air, so now you’ve got to get out. So you tap the guy on the shoulder, hey, I gotta get out. Everybody has to get out. You never leave anybody in there.”

“You never leave anybody,” Mr. Feeney agreed.