Columbia Fire Department’s newest arson investigator has four legs

Izzo, a 3-year-old black Labrador and golden retriever mix, sniffed out traces of ignitable liquids in front of more than 50 spectators at the State Farm Operations Center on South Providence Road. Some people watched from behind the railing on the building’s second floor as Izzo repeatedly scanned several buckets and stopped to sit in front of the one that contained flammable liquids. His handler, Assistant Fire Marshal Jim Pasley, rewarded him with treats every time he found the right bucket. Pasley then led Izzo away from the buckets while Assistant Fire Chief Brad Fraizer rearranged them so the dog could start over.

Arson dogs are trained to detect gasoline, lighter fluid, kerosene and other accelerants used to start fires. Firefighters are able to figure out whether a fire is arson without the help of a dog, Pasley said, but a dog’s keen sense of smell greatly reduces investigation time. It might take Pasley and his fellow fire marshals more than an hour to find chemical samples on their own at the scene of a fire, but Izzo can scour a room and find samples in just a few minutes, Pasley said.

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