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Arson dog works alongside SC firefighters

The eight-year-old black Labrador Retriever is trained to detect more than 250 chemicals when investigating fires

By Drew Martin
The Island Packet

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Let’s just say Abby has a nose for fire investigation.

The eight-year-old black Labrador Retriever is a member of the Burton Fire District. Her handler is John Perry, a 19-year veteran of the district who’s worked with the four-legged firefighter for more than a year. Abby has been on the job for six years now.

Abby is a graduate of the State Farm Arson Dog and is trained to the standards of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. She’s a valuable member of the district in more ways than one - she’s worth $25,000.

She’s a hot item, too. She’s the only certified arson dog in the area. The next closest animals, according to Perry, are located in Columbia and Myrtle Beach.

Abby spends her night and days with Perry, works for her food and knows how to communicate with her human counterpart. When her nose gets a whiff of a chemical - she can sniff out more than 250 kinds – she sits on her butt and looks up at Perry.

Joheida Fister, a fire marshal with the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division, can attest to Abby’s abilities.

Hilton Head recently asked Burton Fire for Abby’s help to determine if a house fire was deliberately set.

Abby found no accelerants were used. While the cause of the house fire was undetermined, Fister said Abby was still helpful.

“It goes back to how you (fire investigators) really, truly do a good fire investigation,” Fister said. “You have to rule out all scenarios. Using her, we could rule out the use of accelerants at the fire.”

Abby trains with Perry on a daily basis and has to be re-certified every year.

She brings Perry along, too.

They both have to pass.

Copyright 2016 The Island Packet