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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Changing of the Guard for PGFD Accelerant Detection Canines

Media Contact: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

The use of an Accelerant Detection Canine (ADC) to detect the presence of an ignitable liquid at the scene of a fire is often referred to by fire investigators as "a tool in the toolbox."  The use of an ADC is not an end all to solving crimes of arson, however, is of great assistance to investigators, hence, the reference to "a tool in the toolbox."  Investigators can confidently rule in or rule out the presence of an ignitable liquid with the use of a properly trained and certified ADC.  If the canine "hits" on a spot at the scene of a fire, the job of the investigator just got more complex and someone could go to jail.

PGFD Fire investigator Aaron Tyler and "Jetson"
at the ATF Accelerant Detection Canine School
The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department has has a changing of the guard in ADC with the addition of one team and the retirement of a canine from another team.

On Friday, December 7, Firefighter/Investigator Aaron Tyler and "Jetson," a 2-1/2 year old Yellow Labrador Retriever, graduated from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Canine Training and Operations Center in Front Royal, Virginia.  They were among a class of 9 handlers from all over the Country & accelerant detection canines that graduated.  

Aaron Tyler and canine "Jetson" are replacing Firefighter/Investigator Robert Kaleda and canine "Joy" as the Department's sole accelerant detection canine.  The minute canine "Jetson" graduated, canine "Joy" was retired.

Jetson was provided to the ATF Canine School from the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown, New York and first met his handler during the six week ATF ADC training academy.

The ATF began training Accelerant Detection Canines in 1986. These specialty canines are trained to detect a variety of ignitable liquids that could be used to initiate a fire. The Accelerant Detection Canine Program (ADCP) is available to State and local law enforcement / fire service agencies who meet various criteria and are willing to commit to a 5-year memorandum of agreement. Handlers attend a 6-week training course at the ATF Canine Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia, then return to their respective departments to begin working operationally. These teams are utilized by the ATF National Response Team on fire-related callouts.

When asked to describe the training program, Tyler stated, "It's a six week program. We train everyday including weekends and holidays. Training includes detecting in and around structures, vehicles and open areas. Our class graduates December 7th."

Investigator Tyler also stated, Jetsons brother, "Harrison," is trained as an explosive detection canine and is currently serving overseas."

The Prince George's County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department (PGFD) currently has one accerlerant detection canine, "Joy," who will retire once Jetson and Investigator Tyler are certified and graduate from the ATF program.  The Department also has an explosive detection canine in service, "Wardo," and his handler Fire Lieutenant/Investigator and Bomb Technician Brian Collins. 

The accelerant and bomb detection canines come and go to work and home with their handlers and become a member of the handlers family.  They are "work dogs" that must work to eat.  Even though the handler is off duty they must work and train with their partner daily to maintain their skills and discipline.

The PGFD has had a long history of using canines to detect explosives and accelerants.  The Department recently retired "Thunder," an explosive detection canine, after 9 years on the job.  Thunder was handled by Firefighter Captain/Investigator and Bomb Squad Commander Dale Ednock.

Jetson romps with classmates.

Firefighter/Investigator  Kaleda and Joy in a November 2009 photo.
Joy has retired after 8 1/2 years of service.

Kaleda and Joy have been partners for 8 1/2 years responding on over 200 calls for service all over the State of Maryland and the Nations Capital.  Notable cases consist of work on the DC Serial Arson Case, Hunter's Ridge (instrumental in breaking the case), and ELF (Environmental Liberation Front) case in Hagerstown.  Firefighter/Investigator Robert Kaleda and canine "Joy" responded on nearly every fatal fire in Prince George's County.  Joy is about 11 years old now and enjoying the retired life with the Kaleda Family. 

"I want to thank ADC canine Joy and Fire Investigator/Handler Kaleda on a job well done while serving Prince George's County and surrounding jurisdictions," stated Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor. "My best wishes for a long and healthy retirement for Joy, your services were commendable and much appreciated."

Firefighter/Investigator Aaron R. Tyler and ADC Jetson at graduation.

 ATF Special Agent John Ryan, Chief, Canine Training and Operations Center, presents
graduation certificate to Tyler.

Changing of the Guard; Tyler and Jetson with Kaleda and Joy

The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Departments Office of the Fire Marshal is part of the Support Services Command under the leadership of Deputy Fire Chief Scott Hoglander, a former canine handler himself.  In addition to the canine certification programs, fire investigators go through a extensive array of training programs to become certified in arson investigation and explosive mitigation.  Each investigator has full police powers and are certified police officers after graduating from the County Police Academy.  Fire Investigators have primary responsibility in the enforcement of the laws of arson and explosives in the County.  To become a member of the PGFD Bomb Squad, Investigators must attend the FBI Hazardous Devices School.  Many of the skills attained by investigators require an annual re-certification.  

Thanks to Acting Fire Fighter/Battalion Chief Brian Radinsky, Fire Captain Dale Ednock, Fire Lieutenant Dan Schrader and Fire Fighter Aaron Tyler for their assistance with this article and images.


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