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Fire investigation dogs embark on a new career at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service

19 February 2015

Etta, a Labrador, and Aston, a Springer Spaniel, have spent six weeks undergoing intensive training at Yorkshire Police’s Dog School to become two of only 17 Fire Investigation dogs working within Fire and Rescue Service across the country.

Both dogs passed their final licensing test with flying colours and are now ready for duty. Etta and Aston will be used to assist officers at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service when investigating incidents where it is believed a fire has been started deliberately.

Fire investigation dogs embark on a new career at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service

Mike Shooter and John Willingham, both firefighters at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, have set up the project, which is a community interest company called K9 Investigations, and will work in partnership with Humberside Fire and Rescue Service.

Mike, handler for Etta said: “We are funding the project through sponsorship. HFR Solutions have provided the funding for Etta and Aston’s training programme and Ashcroft Vets in Scunthorpe are supplying the veterinary care.

Etta and Aston have been provided with their own fire kit that includes special protective boots which, when searching a fire scene, will protect their paws from cuts and scratches from the debris.

“Both dogs will be used in cold, post-fire scenes to search through the debris for any remaining traces of ignitable liquids present that could have been used to start a fire deliberately such as, petrol or cigarette lighter fuel. They did really well during their training and are now officially ready for duty,” Mike explained.

Fire investigation officer, Allen Cunningham said: “The dogs will provide a valuable role when carrying out fire investigations as sometimes it can take days to work through a fire scene to detect accelerants. With a dog’s superior sense of smell being many times more sensitive than that of a human, Etta and Aston can indicate a detection in minutes, enabling more accurate samples to be sent off for analysis. This will make the job of carrying out the investigation quicker and more thorough.”

Following an incident, Etta and Aston will be given a full health check by their handler to ensure they have no injuries and they will be cleaned and groomed to ensure there are no contaminated materials taken to the next incident.

Firefighter and handler for Aston, John Willingham said: “Now the dogs are ready for duty, I am looking forward to getting out to incidents and putting their training to good use.”

Etta and Aston are expected to work as Fire Investigation dogs for about eight years. When they finally hang up their fire boots, Mike and John will continue to care for them at home as they see out their retirement. But for now, it’s time for them to embark on a new career as a fire investigation dog for Humberside Fire and Rescue Service.