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Fire investigation dogs Lexie and Aston join the fire service team!

2 December 2014

Meet Lexie and Aston, Lexie, a one-year-old working Cocker Spaniel, and Aston, a two-year-old Springer Spaniel, will soon begin a six-week training programme before joining Humberside Fire and Rescue Service to serve as Fire Investigation Dogs.

Serving firefighters at Central Fire Station in Hull, Mike Shooter and John Willingham will care for the dogs at home and will act as their full time handlers once trained.

Fire investigation dogs Lexie and Aston join the fire service team!

Mike said: “I am really looking forward to the training programme and getting Lexie ready for duty. She will play an important role in the Fire Investigation process as she will help officers at incidents where it is believed a fire has been started deliberately.”

Once trained, both dogs will be utilised 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, diesel, paraffin, barbecue lighter fuel, white spirit, cellulose thinners and cigarette lighter fuel.

Last year over 100 fire investigations were carried out. Allen Cunningham, Fire Investigation Officer at Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, said “With a dog’s superior sense of smell being many times more sensitive than that of a human’s, Lexie and Aston will search a fire scene and pick up on airborne scent particles of ignitable liquids working their way along the scent path until they detect the strongest emanating source. They will then indicate the area of greatest concentration with their nose, enabling more accurate samples to be sent off for analysis. This will make the job of carrying out the investigation quicker and more thorough.”

Both dogs will wear special protective boots when searching a fire scene to protect their paws from cuts and scratches from the debris. Following every operational incident, Lexie and Aston will be given a full health check by their handler to ensure they have no injuries. They are also cleaned and groomed to ensure that they do not carry any contaminated materials to the next incident.

“I am looking forward to working with Aston, there will be a lot to learn over the next few weeks but he is more than capable. We expect both Lexie and Aston to work as Fire Investigation dogs for about eight years. When they finally hang up their fire boots, Mike and I will continue to care for them at home where I am sure they will be spoilt as they see out their retirement,” John added.

HFR Solutions have kindly sponsored the training programme and Lexie and Aston will be fit for duty in early February 2014. You can follow their progress on Twitter @shooter724 and Facebook K9 fire investigation.