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Meet Scooby, WFPS’s accelerant detection dog

After six months of intensive training, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service’s newest member is ready for work, and he’s not even two years old.

Scooby the yellow lab is the WFPS’s Accelerant Detection K-9, or “Arson Dog.” Arson dogs are trained to sniff out substances commonly used to start fires, leading investigators to evidence that can be used to prove a blaze was set intentionally.

“Scooby will be able to help us clear that area in a fraction of the time,” said Fire Investigations Chief Officer Jason Fedoriw.

Scooby and his WFPS trained for six weeks in Front Royal, Virginia under the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). He is the first ATF arson dog to work in Canada, and the WFPS says he’ll be busy.

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“For many years now, Winnipeg has continued to experience substantially more fires per household than any other of our Canadian comparator cities,” said Chief Christian Schmidt with the WFPS.

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According to the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS)’s 2022 statistical report, there were 452 arsons that year. That’s down 15.4 per cent from the year before, but up 4.1 per cent from the five-year average. The WPS says anecdotally, arson investigations rose in 2023.

“We know that a lot of the fires are happening in vacant and derelict buildings,” said Mayor Scott Gillingham. “There’s a need for Scooby and his work.”

WFPS says arson dogs can quickly locate evidence that can sometimes be lost in the time it takes to do a traditional investigation.

“We have another tool to use to be able to help us locate areas where maybe we can collect some evidence, and we can gather that data. And with that data, we’re able to support and strengthen our conclusions,” said Fedoriw.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service says jurisdictions with arson dogs generally see a reduction in arson and a rise in arson convictions.

Scooby is set to begin work next week.

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