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Winnipeg firefighters looking into U.S.-trained dog to help with arson investigations

In the battle against arson, Winnipeg firefighters are looking at getting some four-legged help.

A specially trained dog — who learned to detect fire accelerators in potential arson cases with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — could join the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service later this year.

Assistant fire chief Scott Wilkinson told 680 CJOB’s The Start that the canine helper could give the service a significant advantage as the city has been home to a rash of deliberately set fires — often in abandoned buildings — in recent years.

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“The challenge is that we do have a large number of structure fires and high fire losses compared to other centres,” Wilkinson said.

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“In a lot of these, especially those that are occurring in vacant buildings, the level of damage makes it extremely difficult for our investigators to pinpoint a definitive cause leading to prosecution.

“So in this case, we’re hoping to speed up that process and improve it with the assistance of the canine.”

A WFPS report says similar K9 programs in other cities have reduced the number of arsons by up to 50 per cent.

“The dog can smell accelerants — those used to light fires, typically — much faster and much quicker and much more accurately than the equipment or the personnel we have,” Wilkinson said.

“So it reduces scene time for our investigators, it speeds up their investigations, and it helps us to much closer pinpoint the cause of the fire.”

The cost to the City of Winnipeg would be $15,000 to $20,000 a year, and a committee will be asked to consider the program next week.

Click to play video: 'Arson charges laid in weekend fire that destroyed Main Street building in Winnipeg'

Arson charges laid in weekend fire that destroyed Main Street building in Winnipeg

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