The newest member of the Parker District Fire Department in Greenville has four legs.
The department has a new arson dog to help sniff out evidence human investigators miss.
Black labrador retriever Jag’s powerful nose can detect just one drop of accelerants like gasoline, kerosene or lighter fluid.
“When I’m on scene and there’s a bunch of people, my dog can go around and sniff, you know? He can rule someone out,” said his handler Deputy Fire Marshal Jason Nurmi.
That clue could lead to the arrest of an arsonist.
He can sniff out those accelerants in seconds. It can take humans hours or days to find it.
Parker District Fire Assistant Chief Brad Johnston said that can stop a serial arsonist before they can strike again.
“Sometimes we’ve had arsonists in the past that have gone for a couple years before they got caught and they did substantial damage,” said Johnston.
Johnston said 20 percent or more of the fires his department investigates are suspicious. That’s about 50 a year.
Until now, the department has had to request a law enforcement dog to come out, which can take up to a week because of heavy caseloads.
That can leave the site open to evidence contamination.
“We’ll have it immediately instead of having to wait on somebody else. He’ll be on the scene. More than likely, he’ll be on the scene before the fire is even put out,” said Johnston.
Johnston said he’s already spread the word to neighboring fire departments that Nurmi is willing to bring Jag to sniff out fires they’re responding to as well.
The department got Jag thanks to a grant from State Farm’s Arson Dog Program. Jag is one of more than 350 arson dogs sponsored by that insurance company.