Pooches from across the North America are gathering in Yarmouth this week for their annual arson dog certification.
YARMOUTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Pooches from across the North America are gathering in Yarmouth this week for their annual arson dog certification.
Tuesday, the media was invited to see 18 dogs and their handlers go to work, including Senior Fire Investigator Daniel Young and his dog Shasta, who work in Maine.
"The dog is a tool," Young said. "The dog shows us if and where the ignitable liquids are and it shows us where to collect our samples, and then we take the samples to the lab. If we don't have that resource, that tool, then we are kind of blind where we take the samples. We may miss them, we may not."
In 1993, in an attempt to combat arson fraud, State Farm Insurance started a program to train accelerant detection canines. The company has provided support and funding towards the acquisition and training of more than 325 arson dog teams to work in 44 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces.
Maine State Fire Marshal Joseph E. Thomas said that in 2013 there were 147 arson fires in Maine that resulted in three fatalities, 14 injuries and $4.5 million in property damage. Arson dogs are trained to sniff out extremely small traces of accelerants, like gasoline and lighter fluid. Thomas said Maine's two arson dogs are important components to the fire investigation team and allow the office to seek justice.
Each arson dog works and lives with their handler, who is either a law enforcement officer or firefighter who is trained to investigate fires. Training is four weeks long and is an annual requirement. Majority of the dogs that participate in the training program are Labrador Retrievers.