Forrest County fire investigators hire new four legged employee - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Forrest County fire investigators hire new four legged employee

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) -

Forrest County fire investigators made six arson arrests and investigated 11 suspicious fires so far in 2012. In an effort, to take a more aggressive approach against arsonists, the county has now hired a new worker whose keen sense of smell makes all the difference.

An 18-month-old black lab named Dazzy is a new fire investigator from Maine.

"Arson is a very hard thing to prove, and having this arson dog with us in the county now it will help us,"said Forrest County Fire Coordinator, Chip Brown.

Brown says Dazzy is trained to assist in fire investigations.

"The keen sense of smell that dogs have is better than any machine that we can buy,"said Brown.

Thanks to a State Farm sponsored training program  in Maine, Dazzy is a certified accelerant detection canine, but the training wasn't all about Dazzy.

"I went to Maine for five weeks to get this dog, and the training,"said Deputy and Fire Investigator with the Forrest County Sheriff Department, Marion Sims.

Sims trained to be Dazzy's handler. He learned the commands needed to instruct Dazzy to sniff out ignitable liquids. The first part of training is scent discrimination.

"We use gasoline. 50 percent evaporated gasoline. The only way we can get that is by a chemist. A chemist from USM is the one who done the gasoline for me,"said Sims.

Chemists evaporate the gas to train Dazzy to detect the smallest amount of accelerant. Sims says if she can smell that she can definitely sniff out a higher amount.

"The other training is burning material, so she knows the type of material the scent is going to be on."

Sims says Dazzy can distinguish between materials burned naturally or with the help of accelerant. 

"She uses half of her nose, and then half of her brain, actually is it's three quarters of the brain that she uses for smelling in a lab,"said Sims.

The way Dazzy eats is a part of her training. Sims says one task, is putting out bowls, each containing either food or burned materials. Dazzy's job is to find the bowl with accelerant.

"She will not hit on the food, because she does not associate eating food out of a bowl. She associates eating food from the accelerate. I always feed at the source that is why I have to feed her by hand,"said Sims.

Brown says Dazzy's abilities are a great tool, but they aren't what proves fraud.

"It's not going to prove arson. It's not the end of our investigation, but it will let us go further with the investigation and show the need that there may be some type of foul play,"said Brown.

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