Dogs Trained to Investigate Arson

Atlas Adjusting, Inc. pic
Atlas Adjusting, Inc.
Image: atlasadjusting.com

William Welsome is director of operations at Atlas Adjusting, Inc. As an advocate for those who have experienced a large insured property loss, Atlas Adjusting has achieved settlements for a number of clients who have lost property through fire in the $1 to 3 million range. William Welsome also supports Fire Dogs, an organization which donates an acceleration detection canine, or arson dog, to a local fire department each year.

Arson dogs detect arson-caused fires and have been used. Firemen and policemen use the dogs’ abilities to sniff microscopic quantities of chemicals. This is done to determine if a fire may have been started intentionally.

An arson dog’s sense of smell is so acute that it can detect traces of a flammable substance after fire has consumed nearly all the materials in a blaze – one dog is known to have detected an accelerant on a piece of wood that had been burned in a fire 15 years ago. Arson dogs can detect traces of gasoline, brake fluid, charcoal starter, turpentine, and numerous other chemicals which can be used to deliberately start a fire.

These dogs help investigators detect the presence of accelerants beyond the ability of machines engineered to detect the presence of chemicals, which cannot match a dog’s level of sensitivity. Only dogs with a special gift for identifying such chemicals are selected for this purpose. Arson dogs are not commonly found among fire departments or police forces, and so they are frequently loaned by their keepers to other agencies. The dogs also make appearances in court when it is necessary to present evidence of arson and to demonstrate the dog’s ability.

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