Indiana fire marshal’s office gets first K-9 arson investigator

CAMP ATTEBURY, Ind - When state fire marshal investigators responded Monday to second fire at a Greenfield barn where a man was killed last week, they brought their newest team member with them.

The Greenfield investigation, with is still ongoing, was the first deployment for the agency’s first arson K-9 unit. Misty, a 2-year-old black lab, is specially trained to sniff out possible signs of arson at a fire scene.

“What the dog does is it helps find ignitable liquids after a fire to try to help with figuring out the origin of the fire and whether or not it’s an arson or not,” said Misty’s handler, Lillian Hardy.

Although the Indiana Department Homeland Security has several dogs trained for search, rescue and evidence detection, Misty is the agency’s first K-9 specifically trained for arson detection. In the past, the Fire Marshal’s office had to rely on local fire departments, private companies, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to provide arson dogs. 

Hardy says having Misty on the job will help the agency respond more quickly to fire scenes with suspicious circumstances.

“By having our own, it makes it where we have the dog more readily available to them so it’ll expedite being able to process a fire,” Hardy said.

Misty began her career in Florida, where she began training as a service dog for the visually impaired. However, Hardy says Misty’s personality didn’t seem to fit that lifestyle.

“She was a little too bouncy for them and she likes to grab stuff,” Hardy said. “So for what we need her for, that just means she has lots of drive that we can work with.”

From Florida, Misty was taken to New Hampshire where she completed 200 hours of training. She received her official certification in Maine and joined the fire marshal’s office in late April.

Misty is among five dogs that live at home with Hardy. Hardy says the arrangement will allow them to respond quickly to a fire scene when called upon.

“She’s like a regular house dog until we go to work,” Hardy said.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security acquired Misty and her training through a $25,000 grant from State Farm Insurance. Hardy says the conditions of the grant should keep Misty very busy. She says the grant requires Misty to respond to 50 fire investigations per year. Hardy expects other local fire departments to start calling to request Misty’s services.

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