SPRING: Gilbert’s ATF Fire Dog
Meet Gilbert Fire Department’s newest member, a 2-year-old, English Labrador Retriever named Spring. Spring is no ordinary dog; she’s a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Accelerant Canine Detection dog, the only one in the state of Arizona.
In September 2012, ATF contacted Gilbert Fire Investigator David Zehring through his work with the Maricopa County Arson Task Force to participate in this unique program. That’s when Zehring was partnered with Spring and the pair have been together ever since.
Zehring and Spring went through an extensive six-week training at ATF’s Canine Training and Operations Support Branch in Front Royal, Virginia. “That’s where I got to learn the commands, got to learn her personality, we got to learn our work habits together, and then while we were there we work approximately 18 different structure fires and we work all the different things that we’ll be tested on, open area test, vehicle search, people searches…” said Zehring.
Spring is a food reward dog only so in order for her to eat, Zehring sets up training sites that range from vehicles to new construction sites when they’re not working on a fire.
“Arson is one of the leading crimes in the United States. But with Spring because of her abilities to find small traces of accelerant those cases that may have been listed as undetermined now may be listed as an arson fire,” said Zehring.
Spring is trained to go through a fire scene in 15-20 minutes and detect an ignitable liquid if present, while it takes the fire department hours, if not days to detect the use of an accelerant at a fire scene. This fire investigation team is not only helping the Gilbert Fire Department save time, money and resources, but also other municipalities and agencies across the state.