An Accelerant Detection Canine’s sense of smell is more than 100,000 times more accurate than a human, according to FEMA. While humans have five million sensitive cells in our noses, dogs have more than 200 million. Dogs also have a special organ in the roof of their mouths, which allows them to taste what they’re smelling.
Nessie, the Arson Detection Canine is the newest member of the Orlando Fire Department Arson/Bomb Squad with her first day on April 30, 2018. Nessie is a two-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever and originated from Wayland, Michigan as a medical assistance dog with Paws with a Cause.
She completed a 200-hour certification through the Maine Specialty Dogs training agency sponsored by State Farm Insurance. The Maine State Police certifies the program, under the guidelines of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. Thanks to State Farm, the $25,000 scholarship for each canine helps fund their certification, training, transportation and room and board for both the dog and handler. Since the start of the program, State Farm has invested more than $75,000 for all three dogs. (photo cred: State Farm)
Nessie’s handler is Fire Investigator, Lieutenant Jason Revoldt. He has been with OFD since 2002. Lt. Revoldt works with the Arson and Bomb Squad with two other fire investigators and a District Chief Bomb commander.
How They Do It
The training process for Accelerant Detection Canines teaches them to sniff out ignitable liquids. Once the dog smells an accelerant, they will alert their handler by pointing out the area with their nose.
The Canines never receive food unless it’s earned, either through daily training or while at a fire scene. Feeding the dogs outside of training would compromise their skills, which is why the dogs live with their handlers.
Accelerant Detection Canines are a tool, not the final say…
While Accelerant Detection Canines have remarkable detection capabilities, a lab is what determines whether or not an accelerant was actually present at the scene of a fire. An Accelerant Detection Canine is used to point Fire Investigators towards the areas of a scene that have the highest probability of containing ignitable liquids.
In 2000, the Orlando Fire Department’s Bomb and Arson Unit received a new tool in the fight against Arson — Maxine. Max, as she was affectionately called, was a Black Labrador and the first Accelerant Detection Canine to join the Orlando Fire Department. Considered one of the best Accelerant Detection Canine in the nation, Max worked more than 400 fires with a 97-percent success rate. She was capable of discerning 40 – 60 different types of accelerants and loved to chase her tennis ball down the hallways of Station 1.
Max was a loyal partner to her handler, District Chief David Haley, during her 11-year career. The dynamic duo were dedicated to making the City of Orlando safer and minimizing arson. They fulfilled countless public service requests and participated in demonstrations and educational presentations for the citizens of Orlando and Central Florida.
In 2011, at the age of 13, Maxine retired from the Orlando Fire Department and on January 20, 2012, OFD said goodbye to our beloved friend, Max, after she lost her battle with cancer.
Max was laid to rest beside her Orlando Police Department Canine counterparts by her Arson and Bomb Squad Team.
In 2011, the Orlando Fire Department’s Arson and Bomb Squad welcomed their second Accelerant Detection K9, Jessie, to work alongside Investigators. Jessie stepped into the big shoes of retired Canine, Maxine, and has been a key player in the fight against arson.
Jessie was paired with her handler, Lieutenant Ronald Verbal and certified as a team by the Maine State Police.
Jessie assisted in hundreds of fires and was challenged in several cases dealing with arson and homicide. Team Lt. Verbal and Jessie had a 100% conviction rate on every case tried in court.
Jessie contributed to OFD by saving the Arson Bomb Squad countless hours of time and manpower in investigations because of her keen ability and determination to point out suspicious items on scenes. She assisted on many cases with mutual aid throughout Central Florida including Orange, Seminole and Brevard counties.
Jessie served our Orlando citizens for six years until her last call on August 3, 2017.