Fresno Arson Dog, Handler Retiring

Fresno Arson Dog, Handler Retiring

Callie, a 10-year-old Labrador and her handler, David Ward are retiring from fire investigations. They've served Fresno County for 8 years together searching for the cause of each blaze.
Callie, a 10-year-old Labrador and her handler, David Ward are retiring from fire investigations. They've served Fresno County for 8 years together searching for the cause of each blaze. 

"I don't miss getting up at 3 o'clock in the morning to go to fire scenes," Ward says.

Ward says they recently went to three fires in one night. Callie was able to quickly determine that two of the fires were arson. 

"It would take forever to go through the fire where with a dog we kind of knew where the fire started we could go through it in a matter of minutes," Ward says. 

Callie is trained to sniff out accelerants. When she smells an accelerant she sits and points to the spot with her nose. She's rewarded with food. A sample of the accelerant is collected and sent to a lab. Callie helps gives investigators a starting point for their investigation. 

Ward and Callie will head to any scene that they're needed at. When Ward and Callie retire, Lee Wilding, an investigator with Fresno Fire Department, will step in. 

"I'm very excited and very nervous all at the same time," Wilding says.

Wilding will fly to Maine in August to meet his new K9 partner and to be trained in the State Farm Arson Dog program. State Farm pays for the dog and training but the
rest of the program is funded solely on donations. Dr. Kahn with All Creatures Veterinary has already donated the vet care. 

Callie and the new dog are members of the Fresno County Fire Investigation Strike Team (FIST). FIST is a non-profit organization of investigators from several agencies that step in to help each other when there's a need. It will be the first time an arson dog is housed and handled by the Fresno Fire Department for FIST.

"The dog is a tool that we can use to identify crimes, identify arsons as a crime and then proceed with a criminal investigation," Wilding says. 

Fresno Fire says arson dogs also help with deterring arson and public education. 

Wilding says the program with Callie has been a success. He hopes to only build on that moving forward with his new partner.


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