November 20, 2008

State of Alabama
Press Release: Forestry Commission, Alabama

K-9 to Track Arsonists for Alabama Forestry Commission

During the past four years, an average of over 42% of all wildfires in Alabama have been determined to be “incendiary” in nature, or arson related. Wildfire not only destroys natural resources, wildlife, and property, but also endangers human life. According to statistics, most arsonists set fires within two miles of their homes. For the safety and well-being of landowners and residents of the state, it is often necessary to employ alternate methods in identifying, locating, and successfully prosecuting arsonists.

In an effort to reduce the number of arson cases in the state, the Law Enforcement Section of the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) is pleased to introduce a new team member: Blaze is his name, arson is his game! The AFC recently purchased a 12-week-old bloodhound puppy that will be specifically trained for woods arson investigations.

All monies connected to the purchase, food, veterinary care, and training of the dog have been donated by four contributors: the Tuscaloosa County Fire Protection Association, District Three Volunteer Fire Fighters’ Association, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, and the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers’ Association. State Forester Linda Casey said, “We’re very proud of the partnership we’ve formed with these organizations – all of which realize the high rate of woods arson in this state is unacceptable. We believe the implementation of a bloodhound program will not only prove to be a great deterrent, but also increase our effectiveness in finding woods arsonists. We’ve got high expectations of our new pup.”

Craig Hill, AFC Law Enforcement Chief, noted that bloodhounds have been used in Virginia and West Virginia for a number of years to help arson investigators identify arson suspects and locate evidence. Since using a dog, West Virginia has seen a reduction in the number of woods arson-related fires. “Last year when devastating wildfires raged across the state of Georgia, these canine officers were instrumental in successfully solving several fires started by arsonists. Four arrests were the direct result of the efforts of these dogs. The deterrent effect realized from the use of the bloodhounds proved very important because once their use was publicized, the fires stopped.”

 Blaze and his handler will begin training together at the National Police Bloodhound Association’s winter event in South Carolina this December. He is expected to be trained and on the ground working within six to eight months. The bloodhound will also be available to assist in locating lost or missing persons – whether young, old, or dementia-related. Another task for Blaze will be his use as an educational tool in schools teaching children about the dangers of wildfire, much like Smoky Bear. 

The Forestry Commission does welcome continued support and assistance in the ongoing upkeep of Deputy Dog Blaze. To learn more about the AFC and its services to the citizens of the state, visit our home page at www.forestry.alabama.gov.                      



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