Sample Block

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

FY 05-04

Contacts: Sheree L. Mixell/Laura Volk


For Immediate Release

December 16, 2004


Accelerant Detection Canines And Handlers Complete

Training At ATF Canine Training Center

FRONT ROYAL, VA. – Eight more accelerant detection canines and their handlers have graduated from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Canine Training Center in Front Royal. The handlers and their canine partners, from ATF Accelerant Canine Class #45, will now return to their respective state or local law enforcement agency.

The handlers and canines who graduated on Dec. 15, 2004 were from seven agencies scattered across the country. They have been training every day for the last five weeks, including Thanksgiving, to complete the required 200 hours of instruction. The handlers have committed to working with their canine partners for at least five years, and will work with ATF’s National Response Teams on fire-related callouts. The accelerant detection canines and handlers will be recertified annually.

During the graduation ceremony, ATF Canine Instructor John Dolan thanked the “puppy raisers” who raised and socialized the canines of Class #45. “ The course that your dogs have taken will now make the world a safer place for untold numbers of people who will benefit from their unique abilities,” Dolan said. “They will become a valuable asset to their handlers and the departments, and will be instrumental in solving crimes of arson.”

The graduates and their canine partners were:

Agent Kevin Oliver
, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation
(NCSBI) and Jada; Special Agent Matt Bivins, NCSBI,
and Kaufman; Deputy Fire Marshal Chris Gober, Bernalillo
County (New Mexico) Fire Department, and Yoko; Lt. Jennifer
, Yakima (Washington) Fire Department, and Wesley; Lt.
Robert Rollston
, Chesterfield County (Virginia) Fire Marshal’s
Office, and Hero; Steve Southard, Ohio State Fire Marshal’s
Office, and Alex; William Roberts, Norfolk (Virginia)
Fire-Rescue, and Orly; and Lt. David Doehler, Prince
William County (Virginia) Department of Fire and Rescue, and Cadet.

When asked about the training and what impact the canines will have for them and their respective departments, Oliver said he and Jada will likely respond to approximately 100 fire scenes annually. Bivins said Kaufman, his new partner, “will help improve the quality of arson investigation and evidence collection.”

Gober said the most difficult portion of the training was learning the changing behavior of Yoko when the dog alerted to an accelerant. He estimated that he could respond to about 75 fire scenes per year.

Norton estimated she and Wesley would respond to about 100 fires a year in her jurisdiction and the surrounding area. Norton said the most difficult portion of the training was learning to read Wesley’s cues and understanding what he was trying to tell her.

estimated he and Hero would respond to an average of about 100 fire
scenes a year. Rollston believes Hero will increase the arrest and conviction
rates on arson cases.

Southard and canine Alex will respond to more than 100 fire scenes a year. Southard said, “Alex will benefit the entire state of Ohio, as he will assist all fire departments, police departments and sheriff departments as needed. Alex can find evidence that may not have been detected without him.”

Roberts and his new partner Orly will be assisting with investigations in the city of Norfolk, Va., and the surrounding areas. Roberts advised the most difficult portion of the training was learning the mechanics of properly working with Orly and trusting the dog.

Doehler addressed his classmates at the commencement ceremony, and said the course had been the most fulfilling one he has taken during his 25 years in public safety. He told his fellow graduates it was now time for them to go forth and begin their dual missions of serving justice and ensuring national security.


note: Photographs are available of Handler Steve Southard and Alex,
Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office; Deputy Fire Marshal Chris Gober
and Yoko, Bernalillo County (NM) Fire Department; and Lt. Jennifer Norton
and Wesley, Yakima (Washington) Fire Department.

Deputy Fire Marshal Chris Gober and Yoko
Lt. Jennifer Norton and Wesley
Steve Southard and Alex
Fire Marshal Chris Gober and Yoko
Jennifer Norton and Wesley
Southard and Alex