From sniffing out cancer and drugs, dogs support us in so many ways with their incredible noses. So it's no surprise that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives found a valuable ally in their arson dogs. One of their newer canine ATF agents, Oscar, began his training with a federal prison inmate in Ohio through Puppies Behind Bars
. Soon after graduation, ATF evaluated Oscar and decided the Black Labrador would be a good candidate for their program.
Oscar went on to complete an intense 12-week training program at the ATF National Canine Center in Virginia to become one of only 53 ATF accelerant detection dogs in the country. ATF really believed in Oscar's potential, having invested about $50,000 in his training.
Oscar now works with Utah Deputy Fire Marshal Troy Mills, investigating about 30-40 fires per year to determine a fire's cause and origin.
“He’s incredible in a fire scene,” says Troy. “He can pinpoint the location of accelerants--if somebody uses gasoline or diesel fuel, kerosene, charcoal fluid, anything like that to ignite a fire, he can pinpoint the location of where they poured it.”
Oscar is trained to recognize several products that have been divided within six different categories of accelerant. When Oscar recognizes an odor, he alerts Troy by pointing to it with his nose and then sitting. Oscar's nose is so powerful, that in training Troy can put a drop of gasoline on a golf tee in the middle of a grassy lawn and Oscar will find it.
Because there are so few accelerant detection dogs, Troy and Oscar are sent all over the state to investigate fires. At the scene, Oscar can immediately determine whether an accelerant was used. Without his powerful nose, investigators would have to send samples from the scene to a crime lab and wait months for the results.
It's amazing how the canine nose can solve problems better or faster than our best technology!