I walked up to the road and the kids were still watching from the car, wide-eyed, under Smackie’s supervision. Conditions were safe enough that I could take them down with me and they could stand next to the engine and watch. One on each side, we held hands and walked down. They stood perfectly still next to the engine while I dealt with the details of the fire. Soon we were able to start returning companies and began breaking down the fill and dump sites.
Both kids were polar opposites at that age. Mike was shy and didn’t talk much while Megan, like her mother, would talk to a dead man. Actually, not much has changed since then. After a while, Billy, the pump operator, took a break and bent over to talk to the kids. I didn’t hear any of the conversation but when he stood back up he was laughing. Later I learned he had asked how they were doing. Mike was silent, knowing his little sister would talk for both of them. She proudly announced in her three-year-old voice, “This is my first structure fire.” It wasn’t the last.