Contact: Chris Cate
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TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who also serves as Florida’s State Fire Marshal, today highlighted the success of Florida’s trained arson detection K-9s during a meeting of the Florida Cabinet. In the last year, the arson detection canine team has assisted 487 investigations, which have helped lead to many arson convictions throughout Florida.
“Our team of seven K-9s and their handlers are instrumental in the effort to hold arsonists accountable for their crimes,” said CFO Atwater. “The ability of these specialized dogs to quickly and accurately identify accelerants at fire scenes is remarkable, and I am proud of our talented trainers who work with them every day to help protect the people of Florida.”
During today’s Florida Cabinet meeting was a demonstration in which a drop of an accelerant was placed on CFO Atwater’s shoe. Fresca, a highly trained Labrador retriever, was released to hunt out the source of the accelerant, which she successfully did within seconds. Fresca, along with her handler Detective David Young, work in the State Fire Marshal’s Jacksonville office. Working on a performance-based system that uses food as a reward, arson K-9s live with their handlers, which creates a bond between the specially-matched pair.
In 2013, the State Fire Marshal’s Bureau of Fire & Arson Investigations received more than 3,600 new requests for investigative assistance and analyzed more than 12,000 pieces of evidence. The bureau conducted investigations on properties that resulted in estimated losses of more than $157 million. Of that estimated property loss, nearly $27 million was attributed to arson. Detectives also made arrests in 401 investigative cases. The bureau implemented its K-9 accelerant detection program in 1998.