State Farm Introduces New Arson Dog Teams to Assist Fire Investigators
National Arson Awareness Week is May 7-13, 2017
The burning of a home, business, or house of worship is a stressful event. It not only devastates the affected person or congregation, but wounds the entire community. Arson robs communities of their valuable assets, lives and property. It destroys more than the buildings; it can lead to the decline of the neighborhood through loss of business revenue and a decrease in property values.
It’s impossible to prevent all arson crimes, but creating an environment that reduces the risk of damage and injury is important. Homeowners, business owners, and community leaders can help reduce the risk of arson through security measures and public education.
External and Internal Safety
- Illuminate building exteriors and entrances – arsonists fear light.
- Clear things like shrubbery that block the view of the home or building.
- Clean up – remove anything that could fuel a fire for an arsonist.
- Install smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system.
- Keep doors and windows locked when the building is unattended.
- Establish an arson watch program in your local neighborhood and community.
State Farm Arson Dog Program
Since 1993, State Farm has funded the acquisition and training of accelerant detection canine teams, commonly called arson dogs. The State Farm Arson Dog Program has placed more than 380 arson dogs in communities across North America.
An arson dog team can quickly search a fire scene for evidence of arson. This saves time and money for tax payers and increases the likelihood that the arsonist will be caught and prosecuted. As of May 2017, there are 96 active and certified teams trained through the State Farm Arson Dog Program in North America. This includes 12 new teams certified in April 2017.
Hover over the interactive image below for details on these newest investigative teams:
- Fire Chief Ricky Flowers & K9 Cato - Darlington County Fire District (Hartsville, SC)
- Fire Marshal Pat Weaver & K9 Izzy - Picayune Fire Department (Picayune, MS)
- Fire Investigator John Wauchek & K9 Mikey - Rutherford County Fire Rescue (Murfreesboro, TN)
- Arson Investigator Shane Arndt & K9 Mazy - Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office (Springfield, IL)
- Fire Investigator Scott Wilson & K9 Bandel - DC Fire and EMS (Washington, D.C.)
- Deputy Jerry Riggins & K9 Marvel - Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Department (Chatham, VA)
- Fire Investigator Dan Roberts & K9 Gibson - Council Bluffs Fire Department (Council Bluffs, IA)
- Arson Investigator Ryan Press & K9 Jenna - San Antonio Fire Department (San Antonio, TX)
- Lieutenant Brandon Ferrell & K9 Pearl - Conroe Fire Department (Conroe, TX)
- Firefighter Shane Weltikol & K9 Webbster - Mandan Fire Department (Mandan, ND)
- Patrolman Brian Gilmore & K9 Elou - Upper Chichester Township Police Department (Boothwyn, PA)
- Assistant Fire Marshal Jim Pasley & K9 Izzo - Columbia Fire Department (Columbia, MO)
Three Church Fires in One Evening
A church should be a safe and peaceful place. The theme for 2017 National Arson Awareness is “Preventing Arson Fires in Houses of Worship”. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that from 2007 – 2011, the average for structure fires at religious properties (church, mosque, synagogue, temple or chapel) was 1,600 fires and $105 million in direct property damage. Recent analysis by the Pew Research Center indicates that 51% of these fires were determined to be arson.
December 2, 2014, will go down in history as one of the most devastating for Felton, Delaware. It was around 2:00 a.m. when firefighters from the Felton and Frederica Volunteer Fire Companies were called to a fire at the Healing Hands Christian Church. Firefighters were already battling the blaze when they received word that a second church, Manship Chapel, was on fire four miles away. Within hours, a third fire was reported at the nearby Law Mennonite Church. For the members of the three churches, the fires left them heartbroken and scared.
Arson was suspected in all three church fires, but it would take more than suspicion to bring the criminal(s) to justice. Arson is a very difficult crime to solve because the evidence burns up. For fire investigators, having every tool available is critical when arson is suspected. Deputy Fire Marshal John Galaska with the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office had the powerful nose of his partner, K9 Tanya, to help with the investigation. As an accelerant detection, or “arson dog” team, their job is to help find evidence that a fire was intentionally started.
Deputy Marshal Galaska and K9 Tanya worked with state and federal law enforcement agencies to collect evidence. Their hard work led to the arrest of two local men. Both men confessed to breaking into the churches following a night of heavy drinking. They pled guilty to second degree arson, third degree burglary, and second degree conspiracy. For Galaska and K9 Tanya, it was another investigation resulting in an arsonist behind bars. It also allowed the community and the congregations to begin healing.
- K9 ElouArson K9 Elou sits where she smells accelerant during her recent training New Hampshire. Her handler is Patrolman Brian Gilmore with the Upper Chichester Township Police Department in Pennsylvania.
- Arson Dog PosterSince 1993 State Farm has provided funding for the training of more than 380 arson dog teams across the country. It is the largest accelerant detection canine program in North America.
- K9 IzzoFire Investigator Jim Pasley and Arson K9 Izzo are with the Columbia Fire Department in Missouri. Dogs have a sense of smell that is 100,000 better than a human.
- K9 RemingtonFire Investigator Jeff Schwing and Around K9 Remington investigate a fire scene in California. The team investigate fires for the Eastern Sierra Arson Task Force.
- K9 PattyArson K9 Patty sits in a car waiting to investigate a fire scene. Firefighter David Seidl and K9 Patty are with the Beaver Falls Fire Department in Pennsylvania.
- K9 JagArson K9 Jag sits on a fire truck for the Parker District Fire Department in South Carolina. His handler is fire investigator Jason Nurmi. Arson dog teams are a valuable resource for investigators to find evidence of arson quickly.
- K9 SadieArson K9 Sadie puts her nose down when searching for accelerants. Investigator Odd Gundersen and K9 Sadie operate in the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada region and investigate structure fires as well as wild land fires.
- Insurance fraud infographic arson dogThe Coalition Against Insurance Fraud reports that tens of thousands of arsons go unreported annually. Many likely are insurance fraud arson fires.
For over 100 years, the mission of State Farm has been to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected and realize their dreams. State Farm and its affiliates are the largest providers of auto and home insurance in the United States. Its more than 19,400 agents and 67,000 employees serve over 91 million policies and accounts – including auto, fire, life, health, commercial policies and financial services accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is also available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 44 on the 2023 Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com.