FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Crime fighter?
Or cuddly canine helping spread a fire prevention message in the community?
Why not both?
The newest addition to Fresno's Fire department is an ignitable liquids detection dog, fondly known as Shilo. Fresno Fire investigator and Shilo's handler Lee Wilding says every day is a training opportunity, but their partnership started with an intense month-long course back east through the State Farm Arson Dog Program.
"The food pouch is her cue that now we're in work mode," says Wilding.
At a recent community event, Wilding demonstrated their training by placing drops of accelerant throughout portions of the room.
The pair does a search pattern throughout the room in a clockwise motion.
"I watch her behaviors. Sometimes she'll show interest in an area or sometimes she'll sit down and make a final alert and those areas we identify," Wilding says.
Once identified, samples are then collected to take to the lab.
That training is put to use on high-profile fires and suspected arson cases.
Just two months into her career with the Fresno Fire department, Shilo has worked 15 fires, identifying and alerting to the smells of ignitable liquids.
Her work includes the arson fire that took the life of a 7-year-old boy in Central Fresno on July 6th.
Police Chief Paco Balderrama said an accelerant was detected on both the front and back doors of the home.
Because it's an ongoing homicide investigation we can't detail Shilo's findings or involvement, but her nose is trained to detect carbon-based fuels, including but not limited to gas, kerosene and lighter fluid.
"We're very lucky to have a resource like this in our agency to pick up on cases like that," says Wilding.
This is Fresno fire's fourth arson dog, made possible through State Farm.
Their program provides public agencies across the US and Canada with canines and training.
The intent is to curb arson and arson for fraud crimes.
"If Shilo discovers at least one arson in the community, it more than pays for the program itself," says State Farm agent Nichole Castech.