Rekindled fire on Vaughn Drive brings fire departments out twice in one night

— From Jessica Hulslander’s Facebook page

Happy “they’re still here with me”: J.P. Hulslander and his wife, Jessica, hold their son, Greyson. Jessica Hulslander is due to have another son in August.

GUILDERLAND — J.P. Hulslander, the Guilderland coach who was displaced, along with his family, when fire raged through their Vaughn Drive home twice Friday night, said this week that he plans to either fix the home or rebuild on the same site.

The house at 109-111 Vaughn Drive has been in his family since 1973, he said; his grandmother left it to him when she died last year. Meanwhile, he called the support that the Hulslanders have received from the community “overwhelming” and said, “I just hope someday, in my lifetime, I can pay it all back, or pay it all forward.”

All of his family — Hulslander; his wife, Jessica, who is pregnant; their son, Greyson; and J.P.’s mother, Kathryn Brizzell — are safe. Hulslander called his wife “the real hero.” Their baby is due in August.

J.P. and his mother were not home when the fire broke out, he said. His wife had been taking a nap with their son in the room where the fire started. She woke up, he said, and saw smoke coming out of the wall. She grabbed the baby and two of the family’s dogs — with no collars or leashes — and put them all into the sport-utility vehicle and drove it out of the driveway.

She was on the phone with J.P. at the time and told him she was going back in for the other dog, who had been downstairs at the time. He told her not to, and by then the first firefighter had arrived, and went in and brought the last dog out. The dogs are now staying with the family at the Homewood Suites in front of Crossgates Mall.

Of his family, Hulslander said, “I’m very fortunate that they were awake and that they’re still here with me.”

A large number of firefighters responded on March 15; many of them worked both the first and second fires, about nine hours in total, said North Bethlehem Fire Department’s chief, Chris Fuino.

By the end of the second fire, he said, “There was evidence of exhaustion in the majority of the firefighters.”

The building was originally built as two separate apartments — upstairs and downstairs — in 1950, Fuino said. Several additions had been made over the years, and it had been converted into a single residence. All of that construction, Fuino said, has the potential for creating “void spaces where fire can be concealed.”

Donation drive

A donation drive for the family was started the day after the fire, with the Guilderland Public Library as the drop-off point. It was started by Laura Caroppoli, who told The Enterprise that J.P. Hulslander coaches her children. She chose the library as a central location open on the weekend. Caroppoli said she was sure that, having lost everything, the family would need to be able to get new diapers or baby wipes and other items right away.

A large amount of clothing and baby furniture also poured into the library, but the family is not able to store much more right now. The Hulslanders are temporarily living at the Homewood Suites, accommodations arranged through their insurance company. The night of the fire, the Red Cross put them up; J.P. Hulslander said he was grateful for both accommodations.

J.P. Hulslander said he and his family greatly appreciate the offers they have received of babysitting, home-cooked meals, and places to stay. He said of the many offers of furniture, “That’s greatly appreciated and we’re going to need it.” He asked people to hold off until the family can find longer-term accommodations, which he said he hopes will be in a week or two.

The Hulslanders have all of the donated items with them in the Homewood Suites. J.P. and his wife and son have one unit, and his mother has another. “Mine is filled up,” he said.

J.P. Hulslander left a job in Coxsackie-Athens a couple of years ago to return to the town and the home where he grew up, so that he could raise and coach his boys there, he said.

The Hulslanders have also received tremendous support from people in Coxsackie-Athens, he said, and from people in the Rotterdam area; he taught in Schalmont and his wife grew up in Rotterdam. Help has come from throughout Section 2 — the athletic teams that Guilderland plays — and particularly from the wrestling and football community, he said.

Hulslander is a physical-education teacher who works in Guilderland’s middle and high schools. He is also an assistant varsity football and wrestling coach, as well as the modified boys’ lacrosse coach, according to the district’s athletic director, Regan Johnson.

“My whole life, I thought, ‘It’s a big town, no one’s really connected,’” Hulslander said. “It’s amazing when something like this happens, people band together.”

The library continues to collect gift cards for the family, which can be handed to a librarian.

There is also a GoFundMe site called “Click here to support Hulslander House Fire Support organized by Team Hulslander.” As of Monday, March 18, it had raised in one day $6,310 of its $10,000 goal.

Fighting the fire the first time

The initial call came in at 5:55 p.m., said Chris Fuino, as a resident reported a bedroom fire.

The building at 109-111 Vaughn Drive is all one building, Fuino said, but two separate addresses. He said that Hulslander’s mother lived there with the family.

The layout inside was not typical of the neighborhood, which is mostly single-family homes, Fuino said, which made it harder for firefighters inside to describe, to other firefighters outside, what they were encountering.

First to arrive was a Guilderland Police patrol unit, Fuino said, which determined fire was coming out of the back left corner of the building and that the occupants who were at home had gotten out safely.

The assistant chief of the North Bethlehem Fire Department, Paul Fuino — Chris’s father — arrived about one minute later and was able to go in and bring out the family’s third dog, said Chris Fuino.

“We mounted a pretty aggressive interior attack to control and extinguish the fire,” Chris Fuino said. Firefighters encountered fire in a bedroom at the top of the stairs and were able to extinguish it, but they were not able to easily reach the back of the house from inside. They had thought the fire in the corner was in a bedroom or other living space, Fuino said, but it was actually in a rear porch.

Firefighters — who also realized while inside that the fire had spread to the attic — then needed to back out and go outside to fight the fire on the back porch, he said, adding, “The fire was above them and beyond their reach.”

Then firefighters went back inside and extinguished the remainder of the fire in the attic, Fuino said.

The fire was extinguished in about 45 minutes, Fuino said, and crews then spent another two hours or so doing “extensive overhaul” — removing ceilings and walls to check for fire.

Firefighters removed some furniture as well as family photos and valuables they encountered, moving them to a safe place. “We left the rooms that were undamaged by fire intact,” he said.

The fire at that point had heavily damaged the second floor, and water damage was extensive on the first floor and in the basement.

Firefighters left at about 10:15 p.m., Fuino said.


At 11:29 p.m., a neighbor called 9-1-1 to report the house was on fire again.

“There could have been a fire that was concealed in a void space, or just an ember somewhere,” Fuino said.

“”When we arrived shortly after 11:30, there was fire coming out of all the second-floor windows, and the roof was heavily involved,” he said.

At that point, he said, the attack was exterior, involving large hoses and protecting the houses on both sides. The houses on either side were “probably 30 feet” away, he said, adding, “There wasn’t damage to either.”

After extinguishing the fire, firefighters went inside, Fuino said, and removed items such as bedding and clothing, to make sure there weren’t any hotspots inside.

This time, they removed sheetrock and wall coverings throughout the second floor, and took down the ceilings from the first floor, Fuino said.

This second effort ended shortly after 3 a.m., he said.

A fire doesn’t often rekindle, Fuino said, noting he has responded to just a few.

Fire investigators were at the scene both times, he said, and are looking into causes of both incidents.

The Albany County assessment rolls list the property at 109-111 Vaughn Drive as belonging to John Paul and Jessica Nicole Hulslander with a full-market value of $194,737.



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