Following the scent: Investigator, yellow Lab team up to get to the bottom of suspicious fires

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  • Fire inspector Solomon Rosman and his new canine partner Reeves. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Fire inspector Solomon Rosman and his new canine partner Reeves. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Fire inspector Solomon Rosman and his new canine partner Reeves. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Labs are used as canine arson partners for their keen sense of smell and easy-going personality. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The 16 arson partner teams at the New Hampshire Fire Academy on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Labs are used as canine arson partners for their keen sense of smell and easy-going personality.

  • Reeves smells for incendiary liquid in a cement block with his partner at the New Hampshire Fire Academy arson dog program demonstration on Tuesday, April 23, 2109.  GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Reeves smells for a drop of incinderary liquid on a shoe during an arson program demonstration at the New Hampshire Fire Academy on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Fire investigator Solomon Rosman and his canine partner, Reeves, work a fire training scene at the New Hampshire Training Academy off of Route 106 in Concord on Tuesday. The dog immediately found the scent of an accelerant. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Fire inspector Solomon Rosman works with Reeves to spot an incendiary liquid in a cinder block at the New Hampshire Fire Academy on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Reeves gets a scratch from the New Hampshire Fire Marshal Paul Parisi during the demonstration. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Fire inspector Solomon Rosman guides Reeves during a demonstration at the New Hampshire Fire Training Academy on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Arson team partners from around the country gather for a demonstration at the New Hampshire Fire Training Academy on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Brendan Fitzgerald, 11, gets a lick from a arson canine partner at the New Hampshire Fire Academy on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Heather Paul, public affairs specialist for State Farm, said Labrador retrievers have a superior ability to discriminate scents at a fire scene and can smell in parts per quintillion. Labs also generally have a good disposition and an outgoing personality. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • New Hampshire State Fire Marshal Paul Parisi gets a lick from Reeves during a demonstration at the New Hampshire Fire Academy on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Labs are used for arson investigations because of their keen sense of smell and easy-going personality. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/23/2019 6:14:16 PM

Fire investigator Solomon Rosman had never before owned a dog. And then along came Reeves.

This month, Rosman graduated from the State Farm Arson Dog Program along with the yellow Lab that will serve as his new partner at the State Fire Marshal’s Office in Concord. As a certified accelerant detection canine team, the duo will help investigate arson cases around the state.

“I’ve never had a dog, but I have been around the canine program since I came to the (fire marshal’s) office, and I thought it was really fascinating what they can do, and I thought I’d like to give that a try,” Rosman said.

Heather Paul, public affairs specialist for State Farm, said Labrador retrievers have a superior ability to discriminate scents at a fire scene and can smell in parts per quintillion.

Labs also generally have a good disposition and an outgoing personality.

“State Farm started and really developed the program, and they have been instrumental as the only other canine program in the country than the ATF,” Rosman said.

Paul said State Farm has been working with the Fire Marshal’s Office since 1993 and that running the program has been the highlight of her career.

“Our very first class in February of 1993 had a handler from New Hampshire, and we have had one ever since,” she said.

Reeves is replacing arson dog Molly, who is retiring.

The four-week, 200-hour training at the New Hampshire Fire Academy off Route 106 in Concord pairs a fire investigator with a canine partner. Handlers and their dog live and train together at a cost of $25,000, but the investment aids investigations and lowers insurance costs, Paul said.

On Tuesday, 16 canine partner teams from around the country and one from Canada demonstrated their skills. Reeves had no trouble sniffing out the evidence, and Rosman said the training resources at the academy are invaluable.

“It allows us to get into a fire scene and let the dog sniff for the potential of ignitable liquids that would be helpful for us should the case turn into an arson case,” Rosman said.

In the past five years, 1,231 of 14,834 fire incidents in the state have been classified as incendiary, or deliberately set, said Deputy Fire Marshal Robert Farley. He was quick to point out that many fires of undetermined cause, of which there were 3,273 over the same time period, could also be incendiary.

“Not every scene is a suspected arson case,” Rosman said, “but sometimes we just get called, and they want the dog to take a walk through just to check. And some of those scenes come up negative. It’s a tool that lets us get into the fire scene faster, and hopefully work it faster, where we’re taking less samples, which is less congestion on the lab, costing less money, and investigators are not at the scene as long. There is a lot of benefit.”

Meanwhile, Rosman and Reeves are building on their new partnership.

“I first met him on the last day of March. It took a few days for us to warm up to each other a little, but now he’s right by my side. He follows me pretty much wherever I go,” Rosman said.




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