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8-year-old hero: 'I just knew I couldn't let my baby sister be in the fire'

New Hampshire Sunday News

April 29. 2018 8:22PM
A rapidly moving fire last July 23 destroyed the Holt family's house on Hill Road in Dummer. Harrison "Harry" Holt, got his then-11-month-old sister Marie out of the house and phoned for help. (COURTESY)

The youngest recipient of this year’s Union Leader Hero Awards may well be the bravest.

Last July 23, 8-year-old Harrison “Harry” Holt kept his head when a fast-moving fire was threatening his family’s Dummer home.

Harry scooped up his sleeping 11-month-old sister, called 911 and met his younger brother outside to wait for help. “I just knew I couldn’t let my baby sister be in the fire, and I just picked her up and brought her out,” the boy said at the time.

Heather Holt, Harry’s mom, wasn’t home when the fire started; she was taking her grandmother back to a nursing home. When her husband, John, unexpectedly met her downtown with the children, she knew something terrible had happened, she said.

“Our two boys were eating Nutty Buddies,” she said. “I knew something was horribly wrong. I don’t give them that kind of food.”

“He said, ‘The good news is we’re all OK. The bad news is we don’t have a house for those new tiles we just bought,’” she said.

The old farmhouse had been in John’s family for generations; he had spent a year fixing it up for his family of five. In just eight minutes, she said, “It was gone.”

The fire began soon after John had put away a riding mower in a barn attached to the house . When he smelled smoke, John grabbed a fire extinguisher and called to Harry to summon help, then ran back to the barn to try to move the mower outside.

It was too late; the fire soon engulfed the barn, then the home.

A short time later, John Holt found Harry, with little Marie in his arms, and his 5-year-old brother Patrick standing at the family’s designated emergency meeting spot under a large oak tree in the front yard.

Harry was on the phone with an emergency dispatcher.

The four of them stood and watched as firefighters fought valiantly but vainly to save their home. And as realization sank in of everything they had lost, Heather said, her husband reassured their boys. “John would say, ‘It’s just stuff. We’re all here,’” she said.

Harrison “Harry” Holt and his sister, Marie, smile for the camera last August during a ceremony at the Milan Fire Department at which he was honored for saving her life. (JOHN KOZIOL/UNION LEADER FILE)

The Holts are renting a house nearby while they rebuild their home.

Heather said she’s proud of both her boys: Patrick for remembering to go to the emergency spot as soon as he smelled smoke, and Harry for taking care of his baby sister, who wasn’t yet walking. 

The whole family plans to attend the Hero Awards ceremony on May 9 at the State House in Concord, she said. “We wouldn’t miss it,” she said.

The family’s faith, already strong, has only deepened since the fire, Heather said. “I know it seems like a catastrophe, but we have become closer to the Lord because of this,” she said. “We trust him; he knows what’s best for us.”

The day after the fire, a local firefighter who lives nearby brought her the only thing that survived: Her great-grandfather’s Bible, open to the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit...”

“For me, it was the Lord saying, ‘It’s OK: I saved everything that you need,’” she said.

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The Union Leader Hero Awards honor New Hampshire residents who have risked their lives in the previous year to save or attempt to save the life of another person. The program is sponsored by Citizens Bank and presented by the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Recipients of the 2018 Union Leader Hero Awards will be honored at a ceremony on the steps of the State House on Wednesday, May 9, at 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. 

For more information, contact Director of Marketing Katie McQuaid at 603-206-1580 or

Public Safety Dummer Milan

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