Vargson said that when emergency officials were dispatched and even when they began to arrive on scene they did not immediately know that someone was inside. After observing cars in the driveway, however, they expected the homeowners were either inside or had gone somewhere with someone else, he said.
Vargson said it became clear as the fire progressed that there were victims inside the home. Firefighters were not able to enter the home due to the flames and heat and Vargson said much of the east side of the home was already engulfed as firefighters began to get their fire equipment ready. "I hate to say this, but there was no way to get in by that point," Vargson said. "It was way too late." Vargson said the fatal fire was the first he has ever responded to where he actually knew the people and one of very few fatal fires he has responded to during his time as fire chief.
He said fighting fires is always difficult in a small area where firefighters know all their neighbors, but realizing that there might be victims in the Hulslander home, "certainly didn't make it (fighting the fire) any easier."
The fire itself took about an hour and a half to contain and once it was clear there were victims inside, Vargson requested the Bradford County Dispatch to contact the Pennsylvania fire marshals. The fire departments who responded to the fire included Troy, North Towanda, East Smithfield, Canton and South Creek. Ambulances from Western Alliance EMS and Memorial EMS also responded, Vargson said.
Vargson said firefighters from Troy had responded to an electrical fire in the couple's barn about a month before and that the fire was found to be accidental and electrical only in nature. It damaged part of the barn, but did not cause any major structural damage.
Alfred Tice, chairman of the West Burlington Township supervisors, said the board of supervisors' regular April meeting will be held Monday. There will be a great void at the meeting considering John Hulslander frequently shared stories during the meeting about the "old days" and reminisced about events that happened or people he had known, he said.
Tice said Hulslander and fellow supervisor Leon Darrow frequently shared stories during the meetings, so much at times that Tice said with a laugh that he would have to stop them so the meeting could continue.
Tice added that Hulslander was very proud he was from West Burlington and always wanted it written next to his name that he was John Hulslander of West Burlington -- not Burlington, not Troy, but West Burlington Township.
"He was a stickler for that," Tice said with a laugh. Tice said Hulslander and his wife were the most hospitable and generous people he knew. When someone stopped to visit them they offered the person food, drink -- whatever the individual wanted."Whatever they had to eat or to drink was yours for the taking," he said. "This is quite a loss for the community, quite a loss."