Rescue dog in training to find trapped people
By TIM HORAN
Dec. 22, 2017
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — All arson-sniffing dogs can detect the presence of gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, lighter fluid and 10 other accelerants.
Hoke, the Salina Fire Department's new arson dog, also can detect a 15th smell: carbon dioxide. That enables him to find live people trapped under rubble.
"That's how that dog differentiates between a dead person and a live person," said Salina Fire Marshal Troy Long. "A live person is exhaling that carbon dioxide."
The Salina Journal reports that Hoke, already certified in accelerants, is working on his search certification through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The 21-month-old Labrador retriever will be one of the few dogs in the United States with dual certification.
"If we are on a rubble pile, a building collapse or a building hit by a tornado, he is going to indicate on a live person because they are still breathing," Long said.
Long works with Hoke 16 hours a month training in accelerants and another 16 hours a month training for rescue certification through FEMA.
"To see ourselves as a premier fire department, we want to be outstanding in doing things that maybe others aren't," Long said. "There are very few of these dogs that exist in what is called dual purpose. Hoke will be accelerant and search and rescue certified.
"The search and rescue certification doesn't just make him an asset to the city but also an asset to the state and the country."
Long said that if Hoke had been certified when the hurricane hit Houston, "we'd have been deployed to Houston."
A handful of Salina firefighters went to Houston to assist with the rescue and cleanup.
Hoke also would be an asset in finding survivors in the event of a tornado or similar disaster.
"There are so many applications for a search dog that go beyond a disaster," said Saline County Emergency Management Director Hannah Stambaugh. "If locally for some reason we had some type of building collapse, it would be a huge asset.
"Salina fire also houses one of the regional search and rescue teams in the state of Kansas. If you think of all the capabilities we have now and add on the fact we have a canine that has the certification, it ups our level of professionalism. It ups our level of certification to be able to respond to some of these bigger disasters."
Long said Salina's central location is an asset.
"We can be anywhere in the state of Kansas in two hours or less," he said.
Hoke must pass seven tests, including finding two people in a rubble pile, to be certified.
Before Salina's former arson dog, Ashes, was retired, Long searched nationwide for a replacement. He found the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
The training center was founded by Dr. Cynthia Otto.
Long said Otto founded Penn Vet after she treated dogs searching for people under the rubble after 9/11.
"Her goal in life was to figure out ways to better train working dogs," Long said.
Hoke was named after a dog that worked 9/11.
"Every dog that they bred was named after a victim of 9/11. Every dog that is donated is named after a dog that searched at 9/11," Long said. "The original Hoke searched for several days."
The original Hoke died in 2013.
Ashes was retired in December with progressive retinal atrophy. She started with the Salina Fire Department in December 2008.
Ashes was called into service 51 times and was directly associated with 11 arrests and eight convictions. Over eight years, the fire department submitted 44 evidence samples for analysis to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation lab that Ashes had located and 43 tested positive for the presence of an accelerant.
Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, http://www.salina.com