Fire, forensics and a dog’s nose!

Fire dogs; another aspect of Man’s Best Friend.

A colleague back in England was speaking to me recently about a series on BBC Television about forensics. The series is called Catching History’s Criminals: The Forensics Story.

Apparently, the third in the series Instruments of Murder (For UK readers the link is here.) included fire being used as a criminal act. That episode featured a dog named Gunner who was a fire forensics dog. To the surprise of both Jean and me, while we were very aware of the sniffer dogs used by the police in many countries, neither of us had previously been aware that dogs were used, at times, in the determination of the cause of fire.

Now listen to Nikki Harvey of Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in this YouTube video:

Published on Jul 23, 2013

Trained from a puppy by his partner in crime and handler, Nikki Harvey, Reqs (pronounced Rex) qualified as Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s new fire investigation dog in April this year. At a special event on Monday (22 July) Reqs launched his Twitter account and demonstrated his skills at Longfield Training Centre, Stevenage.

The 22-month-old black Labrador is taking over responsibility for helping to investigate the cause of fires in Hertfordshire and surrounding counties. His predecessor, seven year old CC, will work alongside Reqs until he retires.

Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Planning said: “The work that Reqs does is critical in assisting the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service team and it plays an integral part in community fire safety. Reqs is exceptionally valuable and receives the same high degree of training that we afford all frontline fire personnel.”

From six months old Reqs was trained to sniff out traces of ignitable liquids such as petrol, white spirit and lighter fluid which can remain present even after the most severe fire. Fire investigation officers use Reqs to assist them in determining the cause and origin of fires – whether deliberate or accidental. At the event he proudly gave a demonstration of sniffing out accelerants in a house and a car, as well as riding on an Arial Ladder Platform (ALP) that reaches up to seven floors, can be used as a water tower to extinguish large fires, and forms a safe platform for working at height.

Hertfordshire’s Chief Fire Officer Roy Wilsher said: “Reqs helps out on serious and non-serious cases and knowing what starts a fire helps us enormously in getting important fire safety messages out to the public. We want to prevent fires and keep people safe and now that Reqs is on Twitter his followers will learn a lot of useful tips to prevent accidental fires.

“I use Twitter myself (@HertsFireChief) and social networking is a great way to spread our safety messages across Hertfordshire.”

Fire investigation dogs are used for their speed and accuracy and are proving very successful in their work. Reqs and CC have assisted in many high profile incidents including suicides, fatal fires, arson attacks and murder investigations.

Reqs’ handler, Nikki Harvey said: “We’ve been training together for nearly two years now, which has given us the opportunity to get to know each other and build up trust which is essential. Ongoing training is now part of Reqs’ daily routine and it’s important that he always enjoys the ‘game’. I’m really looking forward to putting Reqs’ new skills to use.”

Reqs is the third fire investigation dog for Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and is sponsored by Hatfield based company Computacenter UK Ltd, who also sponsor CC and his predecessor Browza. Clare Rafferty, Head of Corporate Events, Computacenter (UK) Ltd said: “The Fire investigation dog is a valuable asset to the Fire and Rescue Service and we are yet again delighted to extend that sponsorship to Reqs who is very worthy of stepping into CC’s shoes.”

And to demonstrate that these wonderful dogs undertake these roles both sides of the “pond”, here is a video from Denver, Colorado:

Published on Feb 23, 2015

Victoria travels to Denver, Colorado to check in on experienced arson investigator Jerry Means and his third arson dog, Riley. Jerry shows Victoria how he continues to train Riley, visits his office at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and takes her to a burn building to demonstrate live fire and extended training for Riley. Part 1 of 2

All of which seems like a great nudge for me to republish a post from Learning from Dogs from September, 2012 that explained a little more about the incredible power of the dog’s nose! See you tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Fire, forensics and a dog’s nose!

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