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Union County, North Carolina

Fire Marshal has New Arson Dog

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Fire Marshal has New Arson Dog

Posted on 02/24/17

February 24, 2017, Monroe, NC — The Union County Fire Marshal’s Office has a new investigator. Camden, a 2 ½ year old yellow Labrador Retriever, is an Accelerant Detection Canine specially trained to sniff out scents of various liquids that arsonists use to start fires.

Camden is deployed during fire investigations to search for ignitable liquids. Gasoline, kerosene and other petroleum distillate products are examples of the ignitable liquids that are used to start incendiary fires. Camden is trained to detect the strongest source of these products after a fire is extinguished and to show his handler the point of the strongest scent of the product. He shows the location by a passive alert, he sits. This is the location where samples are taken for submittal to a laboratory for testing and analysis. He is also able to conduct searches of persons, objects, vehicles and open land area to detect ignitable liquids, and he conducts searches of the tools used during fire investigations to ensure that cleaning and decontamination procedures are effective.

“Camden is another tool available for us to use during our fire investigative process,” said Fire Marshal Kevin Rigoli. “His nose is more accurate than any field deployable monitor available on the market today. He is also invaluable to our agency for fire prevention efforts as well.”

Camden was bred by Guide Dogs for the Blind in New York. At sixteen months of age, Camden began his training as a seeing-eye dog. He completed his course of instruction but ultimately was not assigned to a blind person because he has a very curious nature and loved to explore trash cans.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), which contracts with Guide Dogs for the Blind to acquire dogs that do not complete the guide-dog training, purchased Camden to become an Accelerant Detection Canine.

Camden began his training during the summer of 2016. He is a food reward dog, so in order to eat, he has to train every day. Part of his training was to change how he eats. Camden has to work to eat each day. Every kibble of food that he receives during his working life is eaten from his handler’s hand after he finds and alerts to the scents he is trained to detect.

Rigoli and Camden were paired together in late October of 2016 to begin their training. During the course of the next six weeks, they trained seven days a week at the training center in Virginia and at building fires in Virginia and West Virginia.

Rigoli and Camden graduated on Dec, 9 and became one of 54 ATF Accelerant Detection Canine teams in the United States.

Camden’s first official day of work was Monday, Dec. 12. That day, he and Rigoli were deployed to a small community just west of Asheville to a fire that caused the death of a young female. The following day, they were put to work in Union County at a fire on Mill Grove Road. The Mill Grove Road fire resulted in the arrest of a suspect who was charged with first degree arson and murder.

“Camden will help us provide the forensic evidence that our law enforcement partners will use to prosecute and convict persons who are responsible for incendiary fires,” Rigoli said. Camden is not the only Accelerant Detection canine in the state. The NC State Bureau of Investigations has three accelerant detection canines located in Wilmington, Asheville and Raleigh.

“We have to be certified annually in order to continue to work together,” Rigoli said. “I am required to submit reports each month that detail Camden’s overall health, training, weekly weight and use at fire scenes.”

Camden is utilized by agencies with the authority to conduct fire and arson investigations or prosecutions. Rigoli and Camden can also be deployed as part of an ATF Regional Response Team during the investigation of fires that result in large property loss or death. Camden and Rigoli are together at all times, and Camden has become a part of the Rigoli family.

“He is a great dog with a fantastic personality,” said Rigoli. “He dwarfs my other three dogs, but is gentle and patient with them while playing. He loves to curl up in my lap at night and have his head rubbed. The folks at the ATF did a wonderful job pairing us together. His personality is a good match for my busy family.”