County Fire Department Now Armed With Arson Detecting Dog

Pyromaniacs might want to take note that the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District is now employing an arson detection canine.
The county fire department, after an interlude of more than two decades without such an asset, has acquired a four-year-old black Labrador, which goes by the name of Dinty, to revive its K-9 program. The county fire department formerly employed an arson canine, but that program lapsed sometime around the turn of the Third Millennium.
One of the department’s investigators, Shawn Reiss, is Dinty’s handler, which is to say he is the dog’s owner. Together, Reiss and Dinty recently com-
pleted a four-week, 200-hour training course at the Arson Dog Academy in Concord, New Hampshire.
The course was conducted by Paul Gallagher, the owner and trainer with Maine Specialty Dogs.
Arson dogs are also referred to as accelerant detection canines. They are trained to sniff out minute traces of accelerants that may have been used to start or rapidly spread a fire.
Virtually all arson K-9s are Labrador retrievers, which are deemed best suited to sniff out how a fire was intensified.
The program uses Labrador Retrievers for numerous reasons. Labradors have a superior ability to discriminate among scents at a fire scene, as their noses are sensitive to a level of parts per quintillion, a sense of smell that is 100,000 times more acute than a human’s.
Labs generally have a gentle and cooperative disposition, and are responsive to the food-reward method of training used to transform a dog into a firefighting asset.
Labradors have an ability to work within a fire scene, and are oftentimes most effective when a crowd is present. At such fire scenes, arsonists will sometimes linger, giving himself an opportunity to savor the public reaction to his work. Arson dogs, mingling among spectators, can give such a perpetrator a good sniff. If the arsonist is in the crowd watching, the accelerant detecting canine will alert to the smell of the accelerant on his or her clothes, shoes or body. If someone within the crowd has had contact with a flammable liquid or material, that individual will not escape the attention of the dog.
At the site of a fire, the dogs can often pinpoint the spot where the accelerant was used, which can in some instances lead to other evidence useful in an arson probe.
-Mark Gutglueck

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