Belleville's New Arson Dog Conducts First Investigation

'Sadie' combs the scene of a house explosion, two days after joining department.

Brian Kelly
May 01, 2018 - 12:10 pm
Sadie is the Belleville Fire Department's new accelerant detection K-9.

(Brian Kelly, KMOX)

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BELLEVILLE, IL (KMOX) - The Belleville Fire Department's newest investigator made her debut Tuesday morning, walking amidst the rubble of a house that had been flattened by an explosion, with her nose in the ashes and her tail wagging furiously.

Sadie is the department's new accelerant detection K-9. She got to town Sunday, arriving from New Hampshire after training in Maine.

"She did great!" says her handler, Captain Jeff Fabrizio. "She walked the fire scene. She walked over some crazy debris and didn't seem to have any problems with it. She was pretty comfortable on the scene and everything went well."

Fabrizio didn't expect Sadie to find anything suspicious on the scene, and she didn't. But after her first time through, Fabrizio had another Captain place a 'training aid' can in the rubble for Sadie to 'hit on.'

"If there's a situation where you'd like them get a reward or enforce some positive training you use that training aid for them to seek out and find," Fabrizio says. "They find it. They give you the alert. You feed them and they get their reward." 

Fabrizio says the safety of the dog is of utmost importance. 

He says before they take the K-9 through the scene they do a safety walk-through, making sure there's nothing that's still hot or other hazards like broken glass or shards of metal. "If you walk through it, it should probably be able to walk through it." He says they do not put boots on them for one simple reason, "When dogs wear boots that's all they can think about is wearing boots." 

Fabrizio says dogs are actually quite nimble. "The way a dog's weight distribution works, they have four paws and if they start to set a paw down and soemthing doesn't feel right, they'll just shift weight to the other three paws and move on."

As soon as Sadie is done with her work, Fabrizio checks between her toes and the pads of her feet to make sure they're okay. He says when they get home he gives her a bath and checks her again.

As for Sadie's first test, "She passed," Fabrizio says, "she did great and she made everybody smile, that's the important thing."

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