FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Just like police dogs, some fire departments have canines, too. Arson dogs are specifically trained to sniff out chemical evidence in intentionally-set fires.
The newest member of the Fresno Fire Department is a yellow lab trained to detect ignitable liquids. Shilo helps firefighters determine and investigate arson by sniffing out chemicals like gasoline. She sits down and points to the source with her nose.
Fresno Fire Investigator Lee Wilding is Shilo’s handler. He rewards Shilo with food before sending a sample of the material she found to a lab for testing.
“We’re pulling out all the stops; we’re doing all we can to determine the cause or at least rule out arson.”
Shilo takes over from newly-retired Fresno Fire dog Tessa – and both of them live with Wilding,
“When I’m doing drills with her, obviously Tessa wants to do it. And so for this I have to put her up. Otherwise, she just runs ahead of Shiloh and finds it first. And so I’ll put her up, work with Shiloh, and then I’ll bring Tessa out. Not because she needs it, but it’s fun for her.”
The bond between Shilo and her trainer is really close. She takes all her meals from his hand. That’s because they’re spending the whole day training, whether through games or actual possible crime scenes.
Shilo is from the State Farm Arson Dog Program, which flew Wilding to Maine to meet Shilo and train with her for a month.
“I applied for a grant through State Farm, and it’s called State Farm Arson dog program. They only give the dogs out to the areas at most. There’s only so many dogs to get out. Fresno has a huge fire problem. So I applied for the grant with her. I was awarded it. The grant covers 100% of the costs until the dog comes home.”
“There’s millions of dollars in property damage from arson every year. And also lives are lost every year,” said Fresno State Farm agent Nichole Castech. “So we’re trying to create just a safer community.”