Accelerant Detecting Canines
In 1984 the A.T.F. (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) started a pilot program to train “Nellie”, a yellow Labrador Retriever, to explore the feasibility of Canine detection for use on fire investigations. The results were submitted to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences for evaluation and subsequently the formal A.T.F. (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) Accelerant Detection Program was started. In May of 1986 the A.T.F. (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and the Connecticut State Police jointly trained “Mattie”, a black Labrador Retriever, and she was field operational by September that year. Both “Nellie” and “Mattie” were acquired from guide dog foundations.
During the A.T.F. (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) research the canine was found to be more sensitive to the accelerants than field detection instruments. The Institute of Biological Detection, at Auburn University, later determined the canine olfactory system (sense of smell) can detect at a level of parts per quadrillion (1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000). They believe the levels may be higher but they do not have the laboratory equipment to confirm this.
Anne Arundel Co. Accelerant Canine Detection Team
The Anne Arundel County Canine Detection Team is Investigator Doug Wilson and “Iris”. They are a Nationally Certified A.T.F. (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) Accelerant K-9 Team. Iris has been trained to detect 17 ignitable liquids that assist investigators in determining the cause and origin of an incendiary fire.
Investigator Wilson has been with the Anne Arundel County Fire Department for over 30 years. Doug has been assigned to the Fire Investigation Bureau of the Fire Marshal Division for 18 years and is a member of the A.T.F. (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) / Maryland Arson Taskforce.
K-9 Iris was born on February 7, 1999. She was raised in Edgewater by Guiding Eyes puppy raisers for the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program. Iris went to the Seeing Eye K-9 training program in Massachusetts when she was 18 months old. With two weeks of the ten-week program left, Iris was dropped because she would rather chase squirrels than lead people. She was referred to the A.T.F. The Guiding Eyes Program is where A.T.F.(Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) receives all of their accelerant and explosive K-9’s.
K-9 Iris was sent to the A.T.F.(Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) K-9 Training Academy in Front Royal, Va. for testing on accelerants and explosives. She did well on accelerants and was placed into the accelerant detection program. She went through an eight-week imprinting process where she learned to recognize the ignitable liquids ranging from alcohol to gasoline. At the end of that period Investigator Wilson joined her for five more weeks of training. This portion of the training was ten hours a day, seven days a week to develop the bond between the handler and K-9 so they become a team. Both the handler and the K-9 have to attain perfect scores in order to graduate. K-9 Iris and Investigator Douglas Wilson graduated from the A.T.F. (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) K-9 Training Academy on March 21, 2001.
On April 1, 2001, K-9 Iris and Investigator Wilson became the first Accelerated and Explosives detection K-9 team in the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. K-9 Iris has participated in numerous arrests. The addition of this team has brought an invaluable tool in fire investigation to our Department.