Maine trains dogs to sniff & detect arson

Maine trains dogs to sniff & detect arson

Trained arson dogs play a vital role in helping law enforcement officers and firefighters in detecting ignitable liquids and investigating fires.

Arson dogs work and live with their handlers, who are either law enforcement officers or firefighters. Each dog has to undergo a strict training for four weeks every year. The Labrador Retrievers species accounts for majority of the dogs that partake in the training program. This year's training is going on Yarmouth, where pooches from across the North America are gathering to obtain their annual arson dog certification.

Shasta, a black Labrador, is one of the only two arson dogs in Maine. Shasta works with the Maine State Fire Marshal's office. Paul Gallagher, a former member of the Maine State police, said it was rigorous work for arson dogs. Shasta sometimes has to investigate three fire scenes in single day.

Mr. Gallagher, who now gives training to dogs from across the nation as part of the State Farm Arson Dog Program, said arson dogs could recognize nearly 60 different accelerants in less time and more accurately than humans.

Speaking about arson dogs, Mr. Gallagher added, "Years ago on fire scenes, we used to take a sample here, take a sample here, take a sample here, take a sample there, take a sample there, and hope one of them is coming back positive. With a dog we may only take two."

Last year, there were more than 150 arson fires in Maine alone that resulted in three fatalities and at least 14 injuries as well as $4.5 million in property damage.

Maine has become a premier ground for training arson dogs. Since its start in 1993, the Maine State Farm Arson Dog Program has trained more than 300 arson dogs.