Accelerant detector dog makes Hampton firefighter’s jobs easier

HAMPTON, Va. - The Hampton Fire and Rescue Department say arson can be a difficult crime to prove without a dog detector.

The department has a dog named Taylor that can sense accelerants after a fire. She's one out of two arson dogs in Hampton Roads.

State Farm sponsors their Accelerant Detector Program.

Local State Farm agent, Taylor Ethridge said "It's about $25,000 to train the dog and K9's and acquire them, and to put the handlers and the K9's through the certification process."

It can also take a lot of patience. Taylor gets trained twice a day 365 days a year by handler and assistant Fire Marshall with the Hampton Fire and Rescue Department, Jesse Gomes.

"This keeps her in peak performance condition because she's always working with an accelerant," Gomes said.

During Taylor's drills on Friday morning, a drop of gas was placed in lockers and cans that had burned materials such as plastic, wood, and paper.

The 10-year-old dog's job was to find which areas have the accelerant. Once Taylor identifies it she gets rewarded.

Gomes added, "So in order to keep her fed we play this game."

Although Taylor isn't your average crime investigator, she has more than 200 million scent receptors compared to the five humans have. Gomes said that no electronic detector can do a better job than Taylor.

"You can't do what she did by just walking by it," continued Gomes. You actually have to stop at each one and let that thing gather enough sample of the air around it to be able to say 'yes' or 'no.'

The Hampton Fire and Rescue Department says that they're never let down with Taylor.