New Bern Fire-Rescue adds arson K-9 to squad


NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — New Bern Fire-Rescue is welcoming a new Arson Detection K-9.

This is the second dog to join the squad from the State Farm Arson Dog Program.

K-9 Darby was the first dog to complete the program, and retired on Tuesday night.

Darby sniffed more than 100 fires and identified 50 of them to be arson. Eight suspects are behind bars on arson charges because of Darby, and her handler Fire Marshall Danny Hill’s work.

Now, it’s time to pass the torch.

The newest squad member is Bobby. He’s a 2 and 1/2-year-old Labrador Retriever. He’s not known for his bark or his bite, but he is known for his sniffer.

“As you can imagine, arson is an incredibly difficult crime to find and prosecute because a lot of your evidence is destroyed by the fire,” said Craig Jarman with the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

Bobby and his handler, Inspector Jonathan Gaskins are trying to fix that.

“The criminal prosecution rate for fires suspected of arson without the use of a dog is less than 10%,” said Tom Gingrich, a local State Farm agent. “When you introduce a dog to the investigation and the evidence they’re able to produce, that prosecution rate jumps up to 50%.”

When investigators bring Bobby to the scene, he sniffs around. As soon as he sniffs an accelerant, he sits down. Investigators then take samples from the area to send to a lab to be tested.

“We do find areas where Bobby goes in and alerts on, we weren’t necessarily considering to be arson, to begin with, but it causes us to take a step back and look at a few different things,” said Gaskins.

Gaskins says Bobby’s training is never really over, but whenever a call comes in they’ll be ready.

The State Farm Arson Dog Program has put 425 dogs and their handlers to work in 46 states.

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