Wheeling Fire Department Introduces First Ever Canine to the Force

The Wheeling Fire Department announced a new method when investigating fires today by introducing the newest member of its team – Indy, the department’s first accelerant detection canine.

Indy is a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois and comes to WFD after spending the last several weeks training with her handler, Fire Investigator Lt. Clint Landis at the Stateline Canine Training Center in Hanover, Pa. 

“It’s a history making day here at the WFD. We’ve never had a canine trained to detect accelerants and assist us with our investigations,” said Fire Chief Jim Blazier. “Indy will be a great asset to Wheeling and our firefighting community.”

Indy will work side-by-side with Lt. Landis and the department’s Bureau of Fire Investigations anytime a fire occurs in the city and the subsequent investigation that typically follows. Indy’s recent training included scenario-based situations inside buildings, vehicles, and outside areas. On average, the department responds to roughly 100 fire related calls in a year.

“When investigating a fire, various samples are taken from the debris to test to see if an accelerant was used. Indy will now be able to help us with her extremely strong sense of smell by alerting to the presence of accelerants,” Lt. Landis said.
 Landis also noted just because an accelerant may be detected in a fire, it does not necessarily mean the final determination will be considered intentional.

Although Indy is the first canine to be considered a departmental employee, on a historical note a few Wheeling firefighters adopted a dog named “Spot” who was displaced during the 1936 Ohio River flood. It’s believed Spot lived at headquarters at a pet until he died in 1940.

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