Lauren Dow's wife, Cheryl, had never worried that her deputy sheriff husband might be killed in the line of duty - things like that didn't happen in a little place like Tooele.
Even though her father was also a deputy sheriff and four brothers-in-law were city firefighters, danger on the job had not been one of her fears.She was preparing dinner the day after the couple's anniversary when another deputy came to take her to the hospital. He said Lauren had been burned.
In those days the sheriff's office fought county fires, and Lauren had been helping to fight one near Stockton when flames, pushed by a sudden wind, engulfed the truck where he and another man were sitting.
Mrs. Dow learned when she got to the hospital that 90 percent of her husband's body was covered with third-degree burns. When she peeked into his hospital room, "He was just gasping for breath." Medical personnel quickly did a tracheotomy, then airlifted him to the Intermountain Burn Center in Salt Lake City, where he died about an hour later.
The 26-year-old mother of two couldn't believe she was a widow. It had seemed nothing could hurt her 6-foot-4, 230-pound husband, who was just a year older than she. She had thought he was invincible. "I just thought he couldn't be dead. He was just too big."
The whole experience was "just devastating. There are so many things I can'teven remember. I was so numb it took a long time to finally realize what happened." Lauren had worked the night shift, and many a night after the fire she would catch herself thinking he was just still at work.
Luckily, she had help from many people. And, between Social Security and insurance, she was able to remain home with her children. She was especially grateful to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which has a special memorial fund for children of peace officers killed in the line of duty.
"They have paid for every medical bill, every dental bill, every pair of eyeglasses and all their college for five years. I have not paid for one thing," she said. And with her two boys, those expenses were no small matter. Brian, who was 1 when his father died, developed a speech problem when he started school and needed thousands of dollars of therapy. And Jimmy, who was 5 at the time of the accident, was diagnosed a diabetic at age 8.
Mrs. Dow was married again two years after the fire - to Alan James, another Tooele County deputy sheriff and a high school friend of her first husband.
"I was really hesitant to marry Alan, because I thought, `What if it happens again?' I would be in the nut house." But she went ahead, and she and her second husband have had two boys, too. The couple discussed the idea of James adopting the two older boys but decided against it.
"We talked about it, but we just decided he (Lauren) was a great man, and it's an honor to be his son, and why change it?"
Brian, now 15, has his father's husky build and was asked to wrestle on the freshman team last year. His dad was a state champion wrestler. His mother said she enjoys watching him take part in various sports, as his father did.
Jimmy, now 18, is in his first year at Salt Lake Community College and is taking courses in criminology.
How does his mom feel about having another policeman in the family?
"I don't know. I was really surprised" when he decided to take courses. But she wants what he wants. "I just want him to be happy in whatever he does."