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Arson dog introduced to council
Ceres Fire Captain Jeff Serpa introduces Chip to the City Council last week. The dog can sniff out chemicals used in arson fires.

A newly-trained dog has been gifted to the Ceres Fire Department with the intent to stop arson fires in Ceres.

"Chip," gifted to the city by non-profit Fire Dogs (the charity arm of Concordia Claims Managers), was introduced to members of the Ceres City Council last week.

The springer spaniel is one of four in the state, prompting Fire Chief Bryan Nicholes to say "this is kind of lucky thing for us."

The dog is trained to rummage through charred remains of a structure and to catch a whiff of any liquid or other item used to start a fire. The dog can specifically sniff for traces of gasoline, lighter fluid, charcoal starter fluid, brake fluid, thinner, turpentine, naphta, diesel, acetone and Coleman fuel.

When the dog detects a scent, it is trained to stop and sit at the site, not paw through it and tamper with evidence. The dog can also smell an accelerant on an arson suspect even after repeated washings.

The first Fire Dogs grant in California placed an arson dog into service in Truckee, which has netted one arson conviction. In that case the dog detected the presence of flammable liquids which helped convicted a suspect in court.

Ceres Fire Captain Jeff Serpa was trained to handle the dog in Texas as part of the grant.

"These dogs are more sensitive than any machine out there," said Serpa. "This is a new tool that we've never had before."

Chip's nose is so sensitive that it would be able to detect an accelerant on wood that was consumed by fire 15 years ago.

The dog will be loaned out to other agencies in the area if they need to investigate an arson fire, said Serpa.
The Concordia grant covers the dog's food and medical care bill while he is on the job for an expected nine to 10 years.

"Fire Dogs identifies the dog to be trained, then contributes the entire cost of training and travel for both the dog, and handler to attend arson dog training in Austin, Texas," said Rolf Eidbo, founder of Fire Dogs. "Fire Dogs is all about stopping arson."

A number of other insurance agencies are investing in arson dogs as a way of stopping arsonists because it helps limit payouts for damaged structures.