DUSHORE - Tragedy struck this small borough Christmas morning when a massive fire engulfed a two-story colonial home and claimed the life of a man, believed to be the sole occupant of the house, according to fire investigators.
The identity of the victim was not released as of late Wednesday night.
"The entire back part of the home on Academy Terrace was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived on the scene about 7 a.m. The fire was spreading to the front of the house," borough Fire Chief Scott Hope said.
The property was the last house on a dead-end, just off of School Street near the former Dushore High School, east of Germania Street (Route 220).
"We suspected there was an individual trapped, and firefighters made an attempt to reach him, but conditions rapidly deteriorated. We had to pull everyone out within a matter of minutes," Hope said of the firefighters.
Firefighters also were hampered in reaching the victim by building materials and other possessions that filled much of the hallways that led to a back bedroom on the first floor, where the victim was believed to have slept, Hope said.
"We have had fatal fires at other times throughout the year, but I can't ever remember a fatal fire happening in the borough on Christmas day," said Hope, who has been with the fire company for more than 30 years.
The fire was reported by a resident in the center of the borough, who saw flames and smoke shooting from the property, which sat up on a hill, Hope said.
Investigators believe the fire burned inside the home for 30 minutes or longer before it was discovered.
"The fire was free burning at that point. What I mean by that is that the windows had already blown out and there were flames shooting through the roof," Hope explained.
In addition to Dushore, companies from Mildred, Laporte and Forksville responded to the blaze, which burned out of control for more than an hour.
"Within 15 to 20 minutes after firefighters arrived, part of the roof started to collapse, along with sections of the kitchen, and the bedroom, where we later located the victim," Hope said.
Although the estimated 30 volunteer firefighters at the scene had brought the fire under control by 8:30 a.m., the victim's body was not recovered until early afternoon.
"We has to do a lot digging to reach him," Hope said.
Even after the fire was extinguished, crews could not rush into the large home to look for the victim because "much of the house has lost its structural integrity," he explained.
The firefighters had a job to do and they were going to do it safely, Hope said.
"That's the real meaning of Christmas, trying to do something, give back to mankind. It's not the commercialism and (going to) all the stores," Hope said.
After the body was recovered, Deputy Coroner John Yonkin, who also is a Dushore firefighter, pronounced the victim dead at the scene.
Donna Klarsch, Sullivan County chief deputy coroner, who also was at the fire scene, said an autopsy is expected to be performed today at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital
"We have not yet positively identified him," but she said investigators were hoping to release more information later today.
Two state police fire marshals, including Trooper Tim Young from the Towanda barracks, spent much of the day at the scene as well.