When 8-year-old Richard Muldowney moved onto Davison Place in Freeport in 1969, he and his back-fence neighbors formed their own fire department, building a small pumper out of wood scraps.

"Every time the [real] fire whistles would blow, all the kids would run to my garage and roll this fire truck out, hook up our garden hoses to the neighbors' houses and kind of pretend there was a fire," remembered Ray Maguire, executive director of the Freeport Fire Department and Muldowney's childhood neighbor

That was the most natural thing in the world for the two boys, both of whom had firefighter parents, uncles and grandparents. Muldowney and his friends became featured performers at the fire department's Fourth of July show, putting out a little shack fire for a cheering audience.

Thirty-two years later, Muldowney, a Babylon resident and married father of two, is one of the members of Manhattan's Ladder Co. 7 missing in the World Trade Center attacks.

He is remembered as a "fireman's fireman," a fire officer's dream, with the extra courage and dedication that could make all the difference in the worst blazes.

"There was not a hallway that guy would not go down, even when other people said no," said Maguire, an honorary New York fire battalion chief. "If you put him on the nozzle and sent him in, the fire was going out."

Muldowney also was a skilled carpenter who helped oversee firehouse renovations and recently crafted a felt-covered frame for plaques commemorating those who had died in the line of duty.

And he was one of the prime movers behind "Blue Day," an all-day celebration in February for Freeport's Engine Co. 216, said longtime friend Joseph Sperber. On that day, company members drill, reminisce, and enjoy a firehouse breakfast, lunch and dinner, which typically featured Muldowney's famous meatloaf.