The Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services 'badged' its latest recruit this week—a golden retriever and lab mix named Horton.
Horton is an arson dog that underwent a five-week training program to detect accelerants like lighter fluid or gasoline. The dog trained with his handler, a fire investigator in the county's fire marshal office, according to the fire department.
“We are extremely proud to welcome this new arson dog into our fire service family,” stated Fire/EMS Chief William Goddard. “A few years ago, investigators could spend days or weeks sifting through rubble at a scene. Today, with a trained dog like Horton, the work can be done much more quickly saving valuable time and resources.”
Training for the dog was sponsored by State Farm Insurance. The dog will also be used in neighboring jurisdictions such as fire scenes in Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Western Maryland, according to the fire department.
Arson dogs are trained to sniff out trace evidence of hydrocarbon accelerants after a fire and can direct investigators to sources of accelerants for further analysis, according to Fundamentals of Forensic Science. However, the book notes one of the main problems of these types of dogs is their inability to tell the difference between an accelerant used to start the fire and a flammable substance that ignited due to the fire.