Arson is a difficult crime to prove.
While experienced human fire investigators can find accelerants used by arsonists to start fires 30-40 percent of the time, trained dogs can find the materials in more than 90 percent of cases in just a few minutes.
Iggie, a 2-year-old yellow Lab, is one of only two dogs in the state of Georgia with such training. Knowing a dog is able to identify accelerants, like gasoline, might deter people from setting fires to collect insurance or to frighten someone.
Arson is hard to detect because the evidence is destroyed in the fire. Often criminals will set a fire to destroy evidence of another crime.
That is why Iggie is now working for investigators in Columbus, Georgia. They were looking into a double homicide last fall when they believed the suspect had set a fire to cover the evidence. They had to wait for an accelerant detection dog to be brought in from Alabama to complete their investigation.
That’s when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms offered to train a firefighter from Columbus to work with an accelerant detection dog. Iggie trained for six weeks and then firefighter David Smith joined him for the next six weeks before returning to Columbus.
Smith feeds Iggie every meal. Before meals he hides a tin can or rag with a few drops of accelerant nearby. When Iggie finds it, Smith feeds him. To Iggie it's all fun and games. It’s like playing hide and seek twice a day.
"There's a lot of arson, but people don't see it," Smith said. "Good thing about Iggie is if an accelerant was used, he'll find it."
Arson dogs generally have an eight year service life. After that they go to live with their handler. Source