Arson K-9s completing annual certifications virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — COVID-19 is forcing arson K-9s to get their yearly certifications virtually.

Under normal circumstances, arson dog teams from across the country would all meet together to train and certify in person.

“Because of travel restrictions and out of an abundance of caution, we want to make sure everybody stays safe. We’re using technology instead of in person,” says Heather Paul, State Farm Arson Dog Coordinator.

The national trainer is located in Maine, while Brownwood Fire Marshal Buddy Preston and K-9 Nika are in San Antonio.

“Nika was already trained when I went and got her. I spent 6 weeks up in Maine learning how to handle her,” says Preston.

Buddy and Nika, have now worked together for 10 years.

“She’s the best ambassador for the City of Brownwood. She does fire prevention programs, we do civic events. Last year, during fire prevention, we saw about 3,800 kids,” says Preston.

Paul says arson K-9s like Nika can be vital to a fire investigation.

“It increases the likelihood that there is going to be evidence collected that will be used for prosecution. Definitely these dogs are critical when it comes to fire investigation, but also when it comes to fire education,” says Paul.

Nika’s participated in several drills, showing her ability to find fire accelerants like gas, oil or fuel.

“We’re through. We’re good for another year,” says Preston.

On average, Preston says Nika will help with about 65 fire investigations in Brownwood and surrounding areas.

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