Teaming Up to Provide K9 Crimefighter a Safe Ride
For firefighter David Seidl and his new partner, their good days result in lives saved and criminals behind bars. Safe transportation is a necessity for them to fulfill their important community safety role. In fact, adequate transportation for his new partner was one of David’s first concerns. His partner, Patty, is loyal, eager, has an outgoing personality. She also has the most important nose in the fire department.
K9 Patty is an accelerant detection canine, commonly referred to as an arson dog. She is the Beaver Falls Fire Department’s not-so-secret weapon. David and K9 Patty search through burnt debris while investigating fire scenes throughout western Pennsylvania. They look for the presence of accelerants (i.e. gasoline or fuel) which may indicate an arson fire. This evidence is critical in determining how a fire was started and ultimately bringing the arsonist to justice.
Trained through the State Farm Arson Dog Program in April 2015, David and K9 Patty made an immediate impact in their community. Beginning in late August of the same year, abandoned homes in Beaver Falls and neighboring White Township were being burned to the ground. Over the course of a month, at least 11 abandoned homes or other buildings were torched. K9 Patty did her job. She found evidence of accelerants at several of the fire scenes, indicating that the fires might be the work of a serial arsonist.
Because of her work, community fear turned to relief on September 29, 2015. Officers noticed a suspicious individual at an abandoned home that had just been set on fire. Apprehended at the scene, detectives had K9 Patty sniff his clothing for possible evidence. The canine hero alerted to accelerant on his shoes. Based on her alert and other information gathered at the scene, the suspect was arrested and charged with arson
K9 Patty was definitely showing her skills and value to the community. However, there was still a big problem. K9 Patty needed safe and comfortable transport to fire investigations.
Surrounding communities and counties called in the team to investigate fire scenes because of their early success. The City of Beaver Falls didn’t have a car or truck with a dog cage or a heat alarm system for K9 Patty.
Once again, State Farm was there to help. State Farm agents Brian Wozniak, Bethanie DeLuca, and Eddie Isabella attended a community event where K9 Patty demonstrated her skills. They also learned of her need for safe transport. The Beaver Falls-based agents reached out to State Farm Public Affairs Community Specialist Dwayne Redd, and the search was on for a respectable “K9 mobile.”
State Farm associates up and down the East Coast were alerted to the need for a salvage vehicle to donate to the fire department. Claims Salvage Monitors Steven Wisotsky and Bob Jena located a 2013 Ford Taurus in a Long Island auction yard. It had been part of a recovered theft case. Steven and Bob began networking to raise money for upgrades to the Taurus through the Recycled Rides program.
“There were many issues with creating a police or fire vehicle from the civilian version of the Ford Taurus,” Steven said. “Special mounts for the dog cage had to be custom made and welded to the interior. There were issues with the civilian version of the front console verses the police interceptor package. Headlamps and tail lights needed retrofitting to accept emergency lighting. There were endless challenges but we found ways to make it all work.”
After several months of hard work, the team had the vehicle and parts, but still needed donations to modify the car for maximum safety. Steven called State Farm Agent Stephanie Sgroi in Port Jefferson Station, NY and she became involved in the project too.
“I’ve worked with Steven for a couple of years on similar donations,” Stephanie said. “When he asked me to help, it was a no brainer. I hooked him up with the local fire chief and a customer who handles fire equipment for municipalities.”
“Donations started pouring in,” Steven says, “more than we could have hoped for. We had enough to install the dog safety cage to protect the dog from injury resulting from a crash or roll over. We also installed a heat alarm system which has temperature sensors that open the windows and set off alarms when the temperature escalates. We even installed equipment that the fire department needed, but didn’t have a budget for - a light bar, siren, front and rear strobe lights, ghost lettering, and a two-way radio.”
For State Farm Agent Brian Wozniak, it was a special moment when the vehicle was finally completed and put into service.
“It was great to see everyone come together,” Brian said. “New York agents and businesses donated even though they’ll never see the Pennsylvania team in action. We wouldn’t have been able to fund the vehicle by holding raffles and spaghetti dinners. It’s pretty special, and I’m proud State Farm was a part of it.”
Beaver County Commissioner Sandy Egley summed up the donation event perfectly. “Beaver County doesn’t have very many good days, but this was a very good day.”
The following businesses donated either monetarily or in-kind.
- Pennsylvania Donors: Beaver County collision Center, Brady’s Run Veterinary, Glick Fire Equipment, Hutch Homes, Jims Visionary Auto + Best Buy Motors, MSA Mine Safety Equipment, Oram’s Doughnuts, McElwain Brothers Body Shop, Novak Auto Wrecking, Zignature Pet Foods and several local State Farm Agents
- New York Donors: Proliner Rescue, Scotsman Collision, A Plus Auto Salvage, Code 3 Emergency Lighting, LIABRA Long Island Auto Body Repairman’s Association, Charity Cars Inc, Relay Communications, Act 2 Towing, State Wide Auto Detailing, A+D Auto Repair, Lange Technical Forensic Specialists, Suffolk County Police Department, Mt. Sinai Fire Department, Sunken Meadow Auto Body, Insurance Auto Auctions, LT Auto Glass Installed the windshield, North and Sons Emergency Lettering, Ultimate Window Tinting, and State Farm Agent Stephanie Sgroi
Public Affairs Specialist
Corporate Responsibility Analyst (DC, DE, MD, Eastern PA, VA)