Walker County Fire Marshal Scott Forrest now has a partner he takes with him whenever he’s called out to investigate a fire. Forrest and Dozer, a one-year old lab, serve as the county’s first ever Accelerant Detection Canine Team.
Dozer received several months of training before being partnered with Forrest. The two then worked together to become a certified team. “We train five to seven times a day, six days a week,” said Forrest. “He’s with me 24/7. I take him home and take him to work with me, everyday.”
When investigating a fire, Dozer comes to a stop and points his nose directly on where he smells an ignitable liquid. This skill will help speed up the time it takes to investigate a fire scene and receive results back from the state lab. “Instead of us having to pick up multiple samples of fire debris to send for analysis, Dozer can pinpoint an exact location, indicating where an accelerant might be, so we only send one sample to the lab,” said Forrest.
Starting the K9 program at the fire department cost about $15,000 for the dog, all of the training and a transport system for Forrest’s truck. “I hope people are now aware that we have another tool to aid us in the apprehension and prosecution of the crime of arson,” said Forrest. “And yes, I hope that is a deterrent.”
18 of 60 fires investigated during the first seven months of this year in Walker County have been determined to be incendiary. The money invested in this new venture could save millions in property losses for residents and business owners in the years to come.