SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is in town re-certifying dozens of its arson dogs in accelerant detection - and one of them works here in San Diego.
When fire rips through a property, it takes a special type of law enforcement officer to sniff out what may have started it.
"She amazes me every time we work," said San Diego Fire Arson Investigator Capt. James Shadoan of ATF-certified arson dog Emily, who's also his partner at San Diego Fire. "When she's working, she doesn't care about anything besides pleasing the handler and to work."
Emily is one of around 50 dogs from across the country going through annual accelerant detection training in San Diego.
"We'll take them into this burn building to simulate them out working an actual fire scene, trying to collect evidence left there in arson by a suspect," said Shawn Crawford from the ATF. "Gasoline, that's a very common thing, kerosene, lighter fluid..."
The K9s are critical in solving cases.
"It assists the investigators greatly, especially if they have a warehouse fire where you'd have 20- to 30,000 square feet of debris to go through," said Crawford.
Unlike police dogs, arson dogs are typically Labrador Retrievers due to their acute sense of smell.
"We don't need a dog to bite anybody, so we're not chasing down the arsonist," said Crawfod. "The worst things these dogs would do is probably lick them."
While Emily is all business during an investigation, Shadoan says she still gets to punch out like the rest of us.
"She's a normal dog, a normal puppy," said Shadoan. "She wants to play with her ball, be pet and scratched."