Emporia Fire Department holds investigation training sessions

By John Robinson
Emporia Gazette – January 30, 2017


Photo by Jan Buckman

Inside the house at 1126 Exchange St., a straw lies among pieces of debris, a Q-tip sits inconspicuously under a door frame and a spot on the carpet is stained orange.

Given the home is scheduled for demolition, the mess isn’t unexpected and those objects may even go unnoticed to those taking a look inside. For one individual, they were just a few items which were a cause for alarm.

They got the attention of Bingo, an 18-month old accelerant-detecting dog, who alerted investigators during a fire investigation exercise Tuesday.

A partnership between the Emporia Fire Department and the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office, training was held for a three-day period and allowed both Emporia investigators and Bingo a chance to work the scene of a mock fire, searching for items laced with traces of accelerant.

“We’re out here working with the investigators through our local fire department and the Kansas Fire Marshal’s Office,” Emporia Fire Marshal Reason Bradford said. “They brought their arson-detection canine down to do some training with us, and we’re working on sample collection.”

Chris Mercer, a fire investigator with the state fire marshal’s office and Bingo’s handler, set several items around the home laced with paint thinner, which can be used as an accelerant to start a fire.

“We set some accelerants throughout the structure,” Mercer said. “Then we sent Bingo in to find them and, when she did that, the Emporia Fire Department and (Bradford) took some samples. We both got some training in today.”

According to Mercer, he has been working with Bingo, a labrador and golden retriever mix, for six weeks. Bingo became part of a training program through the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives. She began her training as an accelerant-detecting dog at around six weeks old.

“At about six to eight weeks they start imprinting her at the ATF,” Mercer said. “Imprinting is a stage where they start testing to see if she likes accelerant and if she will work for food and if she does, she moves on.”

Upon finding an accelerant, Mercer gave Bingo plenty of positive reinforcement, giving her plenty of treats and words of encouragement for a job well done. Bingo found every piece of accelerant during Tuesday’s training session.

Bradford said the training sessions gave the local investigators a chance to hone skills which can’t be taught from classroom instruction.

“By training and doing this, it gives you an experience you need in real-time instead of just reading it out of a book or watching a YouTube video,” Bradford said. “We find accelerants being used on all types of materials and knowing how to collect samples and do it in a proper way is very valuable.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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