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Investigations
Accelerant Canine Unit

The New Hampshire State Fire Marshal's Office has the distinct pleasure of having a unique weapon in detecting the use of ignitable fluids at fire scenes in the form of a Labrador Retriever.

Maine Specialty Dog/Maine State Police trained the canine used in New Hampshire by the State Fire Marshal's Office. The certification process is for both the handler and canine as a team and conducted by the Maine State Police and the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. The initial phase of training for this program is five weeks of training and testing for the canine and the handler. After successful completion, the handler maintains the canine seven days a week, year round. The team is required to re-certify yearly. At this time they are assessed and tested as a team for three days.

The Labrador retriever is used for this particular program due to its size, love for work, and drive to eat. The program used for these canines is a reward system based on food and praise. When not working at a fire scene, their handlers maintain them daily. This daily routine can be anything from working or practicing at a fire scene to performing a demonstration for public groups or working on scent discrimination. Of most importance is their off time. When not working, the canines enjoy the company and home life of the family with whom they live.

The canine program was initially funded solely through donations. As the program has grown and proven itself, the maintenance of the canines is funded through the division's operating budget. The initial certification of the canine and its handler is still funded by State Farm Fire and Causality Insurance Company.

The handlers are provided with specially equipped vehicles for transporting and housing their canines. These vehicles are equipped with a custom made cage with built in water dish; the cage replaces the rear seat. In addition, each vehicle is equipped with a temperature monitoring device and an automatic fan with window roll down system.

History of the Program

K-9 Name Handler Date Placed in Service Date Taken Out of Service Length of Service
Murphy Southwell May 1990 September 2001 11 Years, 4 Months
Ruth Norton August 1990 March 1995 4 Years, 8 months
Cinder Norton April 1995 June 1998 3 Years, 3 Months
Clancy Raymond September 1999 October 2004 5 Years, 1 Month
Jade Southwell September 2001 September 2009 8 Years
Molly Stark June 2005 August 2007 2 Years, 2 Months
Andre Southwell September 2009 Still Active N/A
Molly Dubois September 2010 Still Active N/A

Click on the link for each canine or handler to learn more about them.

The Canine program, here in New Hampshire, began in the spring of 1990 with the certification of both handler and canine, District Chief John H. Southwell and Murphy, a black labrador retriever. Murphy retired in was replaced with Jade. Chief Southwell now has his third canine, Andre, who joined the division in 2009

Ruth and Investigator Tom Norton were the second K-9 team to go into service for New Hampshire in August of 1990. Ruth retired from the NH State Fire Marshal’s Office and was replaced by Tom's second canine Cinder. Cinder developed cancer and was replaced with our fourth canine, Clancy. who lived with Investigator John Raymond in Hillsborough County. When Investigator Raymond was promoted to Assistant Director, it was time to retire Clancy. Clancy passed away in 2009.

In 2006, Investigator Mike Stark and canine Molly were certified in Maine. Mike became the fourth handler certified in the Division and Molly became the fifth canine in New Hampshire. Investigator Stark moved to local law enforcement service in 2007.

   
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