The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 17, 2014

Upper Yoder police: Fireworks, not gunshots, spark 911 call

JOHNSTOWN — The crackle and pop of fireworks sent Upper Yoder Township Police to Girard Street late Wednesday - dispatched for possible shots fired.

But Sgt. Jeffrey Berkebile said they were glad they got the 11:10 p.m. call, even though it was quickly determined to be a case of late-night firecrackers.

Berkebile said he can understand Johnstown area residents might be on edge considering recent area crime, including a homicide Sunday that claimed a 42-year-old student in the Johnstown Regional Police Academy.

"We'd much rather people call, than not call at all," he said.

A Cambria 911 supervisor said it's not uncommon, particularly around the 4th of July, for calls initially dispatched as possible gun shots to end up being reported back as fireworks during summer months.

And that's OK, said Cambria 911 Coordinator Robbin Melnyk.

"Our job is to handle every one of those calls as if it's a true issue," she said, noting it prepares responders to handle potentially dangerous situations in an appropriate way.

Melnyk said officers are dispatched for reports of shots fired differently based on information received, such as whether individuals saw shots fired, heard them or spotted a weapon.

“We try to get whatever details we can,” she added.

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