Australia — WHEN asked the inevitable question about what she did in the school holidays this year, Caitlin Holt will have a big story to tell.
She didn’t hang out at the beach or just “chill” – she fought fires during this month’s Eden Valley blaze.
The former Angaston Primary School student, who will begin Year 8 at Faith Lutheran College in Tanunda this week, is among thousands of students around the state returning to school from today.
Caitlin, 12, said she was a bit scared when her dad, Andrew Holt, took her out on the family’s ute, which contained a 1000-litre tank. The duo saw a helicopter circling a patch of burnt grass nearby, so they drove to the area to help douse spot fires.
“I kept saying to dad – am I too young to be doing this?
“I had to put out the spot fires while dad was driving,” she said. She said it felt good to help her local community.
“It felt good to be really young and helping … you didn’t see many 12-year-olds out there doing some mopping up,” she said.
The family posted videos of the fire, including clips of Caitlin putting out the fires on their winery business Facebook page – Poonawatta – which had numerous hits.
Caitlin and her sister Stella, 9, said the trauma of the bushfires had not dampened their enthusiasm to head back to school this week.
“I miss it a bit,” said Stella, who attends Angaston Primary School.
Principal Sam Lawrence said a Community Pastoral Support Worker and a social worker would be on site for parents and students as they return to school.
He said many of the 260 children, and families in the area, would have a story to tell and it was important to let them have an opportunity to speak about the events.
“The kids aren’t afraid to talk about it,” he said.
“We don’t want them to feel they have to hold back.
“It was a very scary experience – watching the orange glow behind the eastern hills of the township get brighter and brighter.”
Caitlin Holt, 12 and sister Stella, 9, near their home at Eden Valley. Caitlin helped to fight the bushfire near their homie. Picture: Tricia Watkinson.