'Dedication and bravery': Upper Yoder officers commended for Ferndale fire rescue

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Patrick Buchnowski, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·2 min read
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Apr. 17—Two Upper Yoder Township police officers dodged a live power line and sprinted through heavy smoke and flames to rescue a Ferndale couple from their burning home on April 3 after alleged arsonists set fire to the house next door.

Officers Bobby Andrews and Collin Hargnett were commended for their bravery on Thursday during a meeting of the township supervisors.

"Your actions on April 3, 2021, were of the highest standards of the Upper Yoder Township Police Department," police Chief Don Hess said. "On behalf of the Upper Yoder Township board and I, we commend you for your dedication and bravery."

Four girls ages 12 to 14 are in custody, accused of setting fire to an unoccupied duplex in the 500 block of Vickroy Avenue in Ferndale. The fire quickly spread to neighboring homes.

"Officer Hargnett was in the front, and I parked in the back and ran around to the front, and a power line fell," Andrews said. "We found out that no one came out of the house next door.

"We knocked and no one answered," he said. "We ended up kicking the door in. Collin and I ran through flames and got them out."

Two people and their dog got out safely.

For Hargnett, it was all part of the job.

"I'm very grateful for it (the commendation), but I think any other officer would have done the exact thing we did," Hargnett said.

A 12-year-old girl and three 14-year-old girls face felony arson charges, accused of setting the fire. They are being prosecuted through the Cambria County juvenile court system.

The girls allegedly told Ferndale police Chief John Blake they set the fire because they were "bored."

Andrews was treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation. A township firefighter was treated for a medical condition.

Blake said the outcome could have been much worse.

"I'm just thankful the injuries weren't more severe, or these girls could be facing homicide charges," he said.

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat.