National Arson Awareness Week May 3-9: Meet MFD’s ‘fire-sniffing’ dog Wynett

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Wynett, works with Deputy Fire Marshal Mitch Cady of the Manchester Fire Department.
Wynett works with Deputy Fire Marshal Mitch Cady of the Manchester Fire Department.

MANCHESTER, NH – The U.S. Fire Administration has declared the theme for the 2015 Arson Awareness Week, which is scheduled for the week of May 3-9, 2015, as Accelerant Detection Canines – Sniffing Out Arson.

The State of New Hampshire currently has two accelerant detection canine teams. Molly, who works with handler District Chief Stacey Dubois of the NH State Fire Marshal’s Office and Wynett, who works with Deputy Fire Marshal Mitch Cady of the Manchester Fire Department. (Read more on Wynett below).

Molly works with handler District Chief Stacey Dubois of the NH State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Molly works with handler District Chief Stacey Dubois of the NH State Fire Marshal’s Office.

New Hampshire State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan and Manchester Fire Chief James Burkush would like to take this week to highlight the value and contribution accelerant detection canines make to the fire departments, law enforcement agencies, and communities throughout the State of New Hampshire. Through the support of State Farm, the New Hampshire State Fire Marshal’s Office has effectively used accelerant detection canines to combat the violent crime of arson throughout the state of New Hampshire for the past twenty-five (25) years. The Manchester Fire Department put their first accelerant detection canine team into service in 2009, thanks to a grant from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

According to the U.S. Fire Administration from 2010-2012, an estimated 17,400 intentionally set fires in residential buildings were reported to U.S. fire departments each year, resulting in 275 civilian deaths, 800 civilian injuries, and $513 million in property loss. For this same time period, an estimated 9,000 intentionally set fires occurred in non-residential buildings each year resulting in $282 million in property loss.

The use of an accelerant detection canine teams has the ability to save both time and money during a fire investigation. Accelerant detection canines can allow investigators to collect fewer but more accurate evidence samples. If the canine performs a negative sweep at a scene, the collection of samples may not be necessary. In both cases, the use of an accelerant detection canine team saves investigators and laboratory analysis personnel valuable time and expense.

On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, both Molly and Wynett will be attending the 11th Annual Safe Kids 500 being held at the NH Motor Speedway in Lee, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The public is welcome.


Wynett, who found her calling as a Fire Dog

In 2009, the Manchester Fire Department put into service their first accelerant detection service dog thanks to a grant from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Manchester Fire Investigator Mitchell Cady was selected to attend ATF’s accelerant detection canine school in Front Royal, VA, during the summer of 2009 where he was paired with his new partner Wynett.  Upon successful completion of their training, the two returned to Manchester where they have been working together since.

Wynett is a 7½-year-old English-breed yellow Labrador retriever who was born to a group of puppy raisers in South Carolina in 2007, where she was initially trained to act as a service dog for the Guiding Eyes Foundation in New York.  While going through the screening process for this group, it was determined that Wynett would be better suited for another career and was selected by the ATF.

Wynett is trained and certified to detect a variety of different ignitable liquids that may be found at a fire scene and is used to assist investigators in building a case to prove the crime of arson may have occurred.

Since going into service with Manchester Fire Department, Wynett has assisted not only Manchester fire and police investigators, but investigators from other local, state and federal agencies on more than 100 calls.

Wynett has assisted with several notable investigations in her short career, such as the fire at 210 Mooresville Rd. in Manchester March 2014 where a husband and wife were found murdered and their house set on fire; the incident in May, 2014 where Brentwood, NH Police Officer Stephen Arkell was killed in the line of duty and the subsequent fire and explosion; the three-month long investigation where 14 cars were stolen from various locations through Manchester with eight of them recovered burned in late 2013 with a total loss estimate just shy of $250,000.

Training occurs daily for the team, as the only time that Wynett eats is when she works.  Every year, Wynett and Cady are required to recertify with ATF to ensure that the team is still accurate and proficient in their trade.  Wynett also holds a duel certification from the Connecticut State Police – Canine Unit which she is also certified annually through.

All of Wynett’s funding for things such as food, veterinary care, training aids, travel expenses for re-certification, are funded through private donations rather than from the city budget, thereby making Wynett’s cost to the city almost negligible.

ATF allows their accelerant canines to work until they are around 10 years of age. Wyentt will be 8 years old in August of 2015 which means she still has about another two years to serve on the fire department.  When not at work, Wynett lives with her handler and enjoys swimming and hiking.   – Submitted by Deputy Fire Marshal Mitch Cady


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About Carol Robidoux 5602 Articles

Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.