The Columbia Fire Department has a new investigator – this one has four legs. Assistant Fire Marshal Jim Pasley says Izzo, a Labrador Retriever, is trained to detect accelerants in suspicious fires.
Izzo is the department’s first-ever dog that has been trained to sniff out suspected arson. Pasley refers to Izzo as another tool in the toolbox.
“I can bring Izzo in, and theoretically speaking, between a minute and two minutes, I can work that entire room and he’s going to tell me whether or not there’s an accelerant in there. It speeds up our process,” says Pasley. “The textbook answer is my job is to assist the primary investigator with finding a sample that has a higher probability of being positive.”
Two arson-detecting dogs work in Missouri. The other is in western Missouri’s St. Joseph. Pasley and Izzo will also help with suspicious fires in seven surrounding counties.
“In the need that they want to request us, they can do so under mutual aid,” says Pasley. “I could see the need for us obviously growing sooner.”
In 2016, the department investigated 21 suspicious fires. Eight of those were prosecuted.
State Farm Insurance sponsored a $25,000 grant to pay for Izzo, training and other associated costs.