Flames leapt from a second-story window. A shroud of smoke engulfed the building where someone was trapped. A gasp went up from the crowd drawn to the spectacle.
A fire truck from Cape St. Claire clanged onto the scene. Soon, the blaze was snuffed, the house saved, with its occupants unscathed.
About 2,500 people at Sunday's Anne Arundel County Police and Fire Expo at Millersville headquarters applauded.
Some, like 5-month-old Jessi Bond, napped through it all.
The event was designed to give the public an idea of what the departments do, and maybe recruit new officers. But at least one person wasn't buying.
"I want to be Robin Hood," announced Jonathan Bond, Jessi's 7-year-old brother.
There were fire prevention exhibits, a police helicopter, aerial rescue demonstrations and Halloween bags stuffed with goodies from the exhibits.
Officers pinned gold-toned junior police badges to youngsters' shirts.
Firefighters, meanwhile, passed out red fire chief hats.
John Arnie, 9, of Cub Scout Pack 725 in Glen Burnie, wore his on top of his Scout cap.
While his mother, Donna Arnie, said she hoped the expo was helping the young Scout with his monthlong fire prevention unit, John denied he was learning much. "This is the 10th time I've been here," he said -- then spouted police terminology as though he had just finished the training academy.
His friend and fellow Scout, David Dawson, 9, was making his first trip to the training area. He liked it.
"I think it's pretty neat how they got all this machinery here and how they got it to work," he said.
Nearby, Adam Fields, 2, of Millersville, was awed. "Look at this," he said, pointing to his junior police badge.
"He loves the fire trucks, the police cars," said his mother, Connie. "Maybe he'll pick up something about safety. They're never too young. This is the age to start teaching them."