Fire Investigation Dogs

Like all areas of the country, arson in Northamptonshire is a major issue and the Service is striving to reduce the number of deliberate fires and reduce fire deaths. Maysie plays an important role in deterring would be fire setters by providing a high profile response to fire scenes where the cause is not easily determined, or it is suspected that ignitable liquids have been used to accelerate the rate of fire development.

Working closely with Northamptonshire’s Police, Maysie and I have attended many serious fires including those that have resulted in a high financial loss and fatalities. On many occasions Maysie has successfully detected minute traces of ignitable liquid that would not have been detected by other means. This evidence has been used successfully in several high profile court cases.

Maysie is a six year old black Labrador and has been qualified since she was only 11 months. She is a second generation FI dog taking over from her mother, Millie. Both dogs are privately owned by me and are employed by the service to work at fire scenes and conduct searches of suspect premises. To Maysie, work is all about having fun. She has excellent drive and determination and yet she is very good natured and is always eager to please.

I recently took the decision to breed from Maysie and chose a sire with excellent credentials from a good working blood line. On a visit to White Cross Vets, Nishi Jani and her team gave me the news we’d all be hoping for which confirmed Maysie was pregnant, I plan to keep one of the litter to work with me and the Northamptonshire Service and hope that her other pups will go on to become top search dogs. @NFRSFireDogs.

Ian Walpole – Fire Investigation Dog Handler

For updates you can follow the Northamptonshire Fire Investigation Dogs on Twitter


How does a fire investigation search dog work?

The Fire Investigation Search Dog is called out to fires where arson is suspected. The dog searches the fire scene once the fire is out and the scene is cold.

  • The vapour given off by an ignitable liquid (e.g. Petrol, paraffin, diesel etc.) is tracked down at speed by the dog.
  • The dog indicates the location of the substance to the handler. This is done in many different ways, but the most common is to stop and stare at the spot where the substance is.
  • The dog is then rewarded by the handler for a successful ‘find’ and a sample is removed for laboratory examination.
  • Success is based on highly skilled training plus the respect, trust and bonding between dog and handler.

The advantages of using dogs for fire investigation

  • Canines can detect the presence of ignitable liquids with greater sensitivity and accuracy than electronic field equipment so increasing the detection of accelerated fire scenes.
  • Canines can differentiate between natural hydrocarbons produced during combustion and hydrocarbons introduced in illegal fire setting.
  • Canines can reduce the time an investigator spends on excavation and debris sampling.
  • Canines reduce the number of samples that require expensive forensic testing.

Maysie and her now retired mum Millie are kept in prime condition with free membership of the Elite Complete Wellness Plan and regularly pop in to see Clinic Director, Nishi Jani and her team in the Northampton veterinary practice for health checks. Fire Investigation Search Dogs work in very hostile environments where hazards like broken glass are common place. Nishi is very supportive offering advice on things such as hardwearing boots to protect the paws which also greatly improve comfort.