By Barbara Tetreault
DUMMER — Eight-year-old Harrison Holt rescued his baby sister from the family house as fire raged through the attached barn Sunday afternoon. His younger brother, Patrick, age 5, fled the house on his own.
John Holt said he was inside the house with the three children when he smelled smoke. He went outside to check and discovered the barn had caught on fire. Grabbing a fire extinguisher, he tried to put the fire out but realized it was getting away from him. Holt said he ran to the front and yelled at Harrison to call 911. He went back to the barn quickly to see if there was anything he could do and then ran back to the house to check on the kids.
In the meantime, Harrison had grabbed his baby sister Marie and carried her out of the house. The two joined their brother Patrick standing under a nearby oak tree the children had previously been instructed to seek out in case of fire.
Holt said he returned to find Harrison “had my 11-month old daughter under one arm and the phone under the other arm.”
The proud father said both boys were calm and orderly in reacting to the emergency situation.
Milan-Dummer Fire Chief Bud Chapman called Harrison Holt’s actions heroic especially for a child that young.
“It’s quite extraordinary. You don’t hear that very often,” he said.
Patrick Holt said he heard his father ask where the smoke was coming from and saw him go outside and check. When his father returned to yell the barn was on fire, he ran outside to the tree. His brother joined him there with Marie.
Harrison will be a third grader this September at Unity Christian School in Berlin, and Patrick will join his brother there as a first grader.
John Holt said the family had returned the day before from a camping trip, and his wife Heather had gone to pick up her grandparents in Berlin and bring them home for a visit.
The fast-moving fire destroyed the barn and house and the family lost all its possessions. Holt said they managed to save a few photo albums but even those incurred smoke damage.
“It’s all just things,” he said Tuesday, noting his family is safe and sound.
The family is staying with Holt’s aunt in Dummer and he said people have been dropping by with clothes, food and offers of support. Friends also set up a GoFundMe site.
“Everyone has been absolutely wonderful,” Holt said.
The Holts purchased the house about four years ago and immediately began to renovate it. Built in 1929, Holt said it was in rough shape and the couple completely stripped it down. Holt said basically they built a new house on the old structure.
A STEM professor at White Mountains Community College, Holt did much of the work himself.
A new stove was waiting to be installed and the couple had just purchased some new tile for the house. Also planned were solar panels.
“At least my list of things to do around the house is gone,” Holt joked.