The City of Reno and Reno Fire Department (RFD) invited media to gather at City Plaza at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The press release relayed a plan to “introduce an exciting new addition to the Division of Fire Prevention team that will help determine the cause of dangerous fires that are set in our community.”
RFD Chief Dave Cochran said to those assembled, “I know we don’t want to give away too much, but let me just say Reno Fire Department’s newest crime fighter has four legs and a keen sense of smell, giving him a nose up on our city. … This is an exciting day for the Reno Fire Department. We are about to introduce and officially welcome an energetic addition to our department.”
Reno City Council members Devon Reese and Oscar Delgado were on hand when “More Than a Feeling” by Boston played over loudspeakers on the plaza and RFD firefighters introduced a different Boston–the “accelerant detection” dog.
Boston and RFD Fire Investigator Sean O’Brien will be digging into suspected arson cases together. The two went through 200 hours of training together, following Boston’s year-and-a-half of initial training.
The dog can sniff out gasoline, kerosene or other fire accelerants.
Boston was intended to be a guide dog for the blind but was too energetic, O’Brien said.
“He’s a Labrador retriever, purebred. We were able to obtain him thanks to State Farm. They give scholarships out for an arson dog program,” O’Brien said.
The scholarship for Boston was around $25,000, and O’Brien said the department would likely not have acquired him otherwise.
State Farm Insurance’s Arson Dog Training Program operates out of New Hampshire. Boston is one member of 425 teams made up of humans and arson dogs that are placed within 46 states.
Chadd Watson, agency sales leader at State Farm said, “The scope of arson goes beyond impacting insurance companies. It affects the personal and financial wellbeing of a community. These canines enable investigators to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.”
Boston is the first certified arson dog in Nevada, Watson added.
Boston and O’Brien gave a demonstration of the dog’s skills. Four paint cans—one containing just three drops of gasoline on a cotton ball—were passed around by council members Reese and Delgado and two RFD firefighters. The dog was told to “seek” and quickly identified the can with gas in it, sitting down in front of it to indicate his find.
According to RFD’s most recent annual report, it investigated 196 fires and made seven separate arson arrests in 2019. Those fires resulted in two civilian fatalities, seven smoke and burn victims and nearly $5.4 million in losses.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.