A Nose for Crime: How K-9's Help Fight Arson

Mumsie the Arson Dog
Posted at 5:26 PM, May 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-27 11:08:31-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Here in our area and throughout the state of Florida, arson is a huge problem.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam estimates that more than 350 wildfires were started by arsonists this year alone. That's a more than 70% increase compared to last year.

Investigators use many different methods and tools to figure out what or who started a fire. One of the more unique ways they solve the mystery are K-9s trained to detect right away if a fire was set on purpose.

One of those K-9's is Mumsie. She's not your average black lab. This K-9 is trained in accelerant detection.

"When she spots something, it's dead on," said Detective Roland "Tony" Gray of Florida's Bureau of Fire & Arson Investigations. Mumsie has been working with Detective Gray for about a year now, helping out at fires in about a dozen local counties.

"Having Mumsie with me every day, this is the best job I think I've ever had in my life," said Det. Gray. "She's really good at her job. The guys, they gave her a nickname as The Terminator."

Mumsie gets her tough-guy nickname from her work ethic. When Detective Gray brings her to the scene of a fire, Mumsie can tell right away if chemicals were used to help start or spread the flames.

"The reason that we actually use labs and dogs like Mumsie because they're unbiased. An investigator, we know areas to look for from our training, our scientific method. Mumsie, she puts all that to the side and says 'it's over there, guy," said Det. Gray.

Mumsie came to the Tallahassee area through a grant from State Farm. The insurance company pays to train the dogs in hopes of solving and preventing arson fires. It also helps prosecutors.

"When you have a scene and you bring a canine in and the dog alerts, you collect a sample and send it off to the lab and they confirm that there's some type of accelerant, it's a win-win for the detectives and the dog," said Lt. Robert Jacobs of the Bureau of Fire & Arson Investigations.

Mumsie and Detective Gray are one of six K-9 accelerant detection teams with Florida's Division of Investigative and Forensic Services.