Des Moines Fire Department Gets Expert Canine to Sniff Out Arson

Des Moines Fire Department Gets Expert Canine to Sniff Out Arson


The Des Moines Fire Department has now got a canine trained to sniff out accelerants commonly used in arson cases. Named Yahtzee, the handsome English black Lab is specially trained to detect traces of chemicals firebugs use when starting fires — whether for gain, revenge, or purely for kicks.

Yahtzee underwent a month's worth of training sessions with his handler, Capt. Eric Huntoon, before being cleared for takeoff with the Des Moines fire crew Huntoon is a part of. The gentle canine lives with Huntoon and happily accompanies him to work when they're on shift.

"Yahtzee is a game-changer for our fire investigation unit," Huntoon said. "He's highly skilled at detecting traces of chemicals that are used to start fires and will help us refine our investigative skills at fire scenes."

This is terrific news for anyone with an understanding of fire science, where fire investigators hunt for clues, collect evidence, and report on what happened. Determining cause is crucial in this line of work, and a canine sniffer could possibly be a game changer for humans.

Funding for Yahtzee's training was provided by State Farm's Arson Dog Program, which has reportedly placed in excess of 450 specially-trained woofers in 46 states plus, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, to sniff out the truth since it was initially founded back in 1993.

"We feel law enforcement and fire investigators should have every tool possible to combat this costly — and sometimes deadly — crime," Heather Paul, national coordinator for the State Farm Arson Dog Program, stated. "These K-9s enable investigators to do their job more efficiently and effectively. The scope of arson goes beyond impacting insurance companies. It affects the personal and financial well-being of us all. Training dogs to detect accelerants at fire scenes saves time and money in arson investigations."

Dogs possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, making them ideal for their jobs as sniffers of the truth. On the other hand, humans only have around 6 million. As the website notes, arson creates billions of dollars in property damage every year and is responsible for hundreds of lives lost. Their program matches and trains handlers with accelerant detection canines to counter arson fraud, raise awareness, and help reduce future occurrences.

To learn more about it, click on the State Farm link above.

Rebecca West

Rebecca is a writer and editor for both print and digital with a love for travel, history, archaeology, trivia, and architecture. Much of her writing has focused on human and animal health and welfare. A life-long pet owner, she has taken part in fostering dogs for military members during deployment and given many rescued and surrendered dogs the forever home they always wanted. Her two favorite canine quotes are, "Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are," and "My dog rescued me."

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