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Local Fire Marshal Training Dogs To Be Arson Investigators

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

CRAWLEY Dave Crawley
Dave Crawley joined KDKA in April of 1988 where he reports on the...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A dog’s sense of smell is said to be a thousand times stronger than a human’s. So a well-trained canine can be a handy partner at a fire scene.

“Come on, boy. Let’s go to work.”

Allegheny County Deputy Fire Marshal Don Brucker offers encouragement to a Labrador retriever named Coal.

Nearing his 12th birthday, the accelerant canine still loves the work he’s trained to do. Currently, he is sniffing out minute traces of gasoline in a parking lot.

“If you find it, you sit,” Brucker explains. “You’re rewarded. I’ll ask you to show me. You’re rewarded again, and then we move on.”

Coal’s nose is multi-talented.

“We have light petroleum, medium and heavy petroleum distillate,” says his master. “We also have jet fuel.”

If it can start a fire, Coal will find it. He averages 250 fire scenes a year.

But his owner cautions that “a canine alert in itself does not make a fire scene an arson. It’s just one piece in a puzzle that we have to move forward.”

Coal’s protégé, a much younger lab named Diesel, watches intently. Diesel is in his third week of training.

“Having him since he was 8-weeks-old, he knows me,” Brucker says. “I feed him. I have other folks in my family feed him as well. He’s a part of our family.

The student has learned his lessons well, finding each of the hidden accelerants. Firefighters are trained for all eventualities. So are their dogs.

“Outside training. We do inside training,” the fire marshal says. “We do house training. We do in-the-car training. We do article training. Pin point. We want to change it up.”

With two good teachers, human and canine, Diesel is a lucky student.

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