By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – Children and parents poured out of their homes on Christmas Eve after hearing a fire engine's horn. When they saw Santa Claus, they smiled and waved.
"All the sudden I heard the horn and ran outside," said DeAndre Simpson, 12, of Killeen, who was staying with family in Harker Heights on Monday night. "I saw Santa on a fire truck. You don't see that every day."
The Fire Department upheld its tradition of taking Santa Claus around the city on Christmas Eve in its fire trucks.
"It has been a long-standing tradition for Harker Heights," said Capt. Jimmy Carson. "Longer than I have been here, and I have been here for 19 years."
Two fire trucks on opposite sides of town went down several streets while Santa Claus waved to onlookers.
"My favorite part is seeing all the lights and having all the people coming out and waving," Carson said.
The trucks stopped at five locations, including the city library and H-E-B, so children could greet Santa Claus. When the engines stopped, presents was unloaded from the trucks and distributed by Santa and his elves.
"It is very cool, and I am happy I got a present," DeAndre said, after shaking his present. "I think I got a puzzle."
The elves, Naomi, 8, and Dayleen Statler, 9, saved $5 a week all year so they could purchase the 200 gifts they helped hand out to children in Harker Heights.
"They get the real meaning it is better to give than to receive," said Jeffery Anderson, of Fort Hood, a family friend of the Statlers who was asked to play Santa Claus. His daughter, Bailey, 6, got to play an elf.
The Statlers have participated in the last four Christmas Eve tours by the Fire Department and provided more than 1,000 gifts.
"That is the true Santa Claus in action," Carson said about the two girls.
Harker Heights residents, including Christina Smith, rushed to see Santa Claus. Members of Smith's family threw on shoes and didn't bother to change into warmer clothes so they could get the chance to meet Santa.
"It helps get the kids in the spirit," said Smith, DeAndre's aunt.
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7554