Twenty-two year old Colorado Volunteer Firefighter Austin Weishel stepped to the microphone at the American Humane Association's Headquarters in Washington tonight and quietely described the hours he spent in his family's basement, music playing, working tirelessly to get every detail right. The results of his labor -- a 17 foot high, 450 pound bronze statue of a firefighter with his arson dog, arrived with a fire service escort in Washington DC after a 2,000 mile trek from Colorado. It was the 12th and final stop. The monument will permanently reside at the Nation's Capital to honor the teamwork between firefighters and their canine companions in solving the arson crimes.
The National Fire Dog Monument entitled "From Ashes to Answers" was commissioned by Jerry Means, an arson investigation agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations. Means' own arson dog Sadie, received national attention last year as the winner of the 2011 American Human Association Hero Dog Awards in the category of Law Enforcement/Arson Dog and was the model for the sculpture. Means led a four-year fundraising campaign, selling challenge coins to fund the project. Also supporting the effort were State Farm, who supports more than 300 arson dog teams in North America, and the American Humane Association.
(NFPA's Sparky the Fire Dog has been named the official spokesdog for the 2012 Hero Dog Awards.)
Arson dogs – also known as accelerant detection canines – are trained to sniff out and indicate traces of petroleum products such as gasoline or lighter fluid that might have been used to start a fire. The traces are sampled and sent to a lab for identification. To become certified for the work, the dogs and their handlers undergo many weeks of professional training and must pass yearly testing to maintain their certification.
Voting is now underway for the 2012 Hero Dog Awards. Visit www.herodogaward.org to vote for your favorite in the the Law Enforcement/Arson Dog category as well as others.