P.J.’s training was provided by State Farm Insurance through their Arson Dog Program which partners with Maine Specialty Dogs.
NEW CASTLE (DE) BY GEORGE SHEA, PHOTOJOURNALIST: It’s a new beginning for K9 PJ and Deputy State Fire Marshal Michael Pfaffenhauser. Both became an accelerant detection team with the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office recently.
While Deputy State Fire Marshal Michael Pfaffenhauser has been a Deputy State Fire Marshal for many years, canine PJ joins him on special assignment to sniff out ignitable liquids that may be used to start or spread a fire.
“PJ is trained to detect accelerants, Petroleum based accelerants … Pretty much anything from like lighter fluid diesel fluid, to diesel fuel.,” Said PJ’s handler, Deputy State Fire Marshal Michael Pfaffenhauser.
As Canine PJ begins his new career, Canine Tanya is retiring.
“I’m honored to of had the opportunity provided to me by State Fire Marshal Engle and this agency, as well as the grant from State Farm Insurance, that has allowed me these wonderful past eight years working Canine Tonya.,” Said Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal John Galaska. “We’ve been to anywhere in the neighborhood of 800 fires.”
As PJ begins demonstrating his ability outside the State Fire Service Center in New Castle, Delaware, which is also the New Castle Fire Training Division, Pfaffenhauser say’s PJ is ‘spot on.’
“I don’t know how they do it but they do it. He’s spot on. It’s shocking.,” Said Pfaffenhauser.
To be sure PJ really is ‘spot on’, when he detects an accelerant, a sample of the spot PJ sniffs out is collected and sent to a lab for testing Pfaffenhauser explains.
“I would mark that spot myself or another investigator. We would come back, collect a sample of that area. We would actually run the dog over that sample again to confirm that the spot actually have accelerants in it. Then that sample would be sent to a lab to be tested scientifically and then hopefully come back with a positive result for us.”
“Arson costs millions. It costs thousands every year and it also costs hundreds of lives as well as injuries that results from.,” Said Dave Phillips, public Information Affairs with State Farm.
“Arson is one of the most difficult crimes to solve. Fire investigators are trained to look for burn patterns and collect evidence when a fire has been suspiciously started. The only problem is our human nose can smell all the burned debris, wet wood, and smoke from the fire but not the drops of fuel that may have been used to accelerate the fire.,” Said Heather Paul, Public Affairs Specialist with State Farm Insurance.
“A dog’s sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times better than that of a human. An arson dog can work through a fire scene efficiently, smell a drop of gas or fuel amongst all the debris, and differentiate the smell of fuel from all the other odors. Talk about a superpower!,” Paul added.
And because of that P.J.’s training was provided by State Farm Insurance through their Arson Dog Program which partners with Maine Specialty Dogs.
Canine PJ, a Yellow Labrador Retriever, and Deputy Pfaffenhauser were trained during a 4-week class in Concord, New Hampshire by Maine Specialty Dogs and certified as a team by the Maine State Police in April 2022.
According to State Farm, “The State Farm Arson Dog program has been helping communities, law enforcement and fire departments across North America since 1993. Over the past 29 years, the program has provided 100% of the funding for the acquisition and training of over 435 accelerant detection canine (ADC) teams throughout the United States and Canada.
These teams help law enforcement to efficiently and effectively collect valuable evidence that may be used in the prosecution of an arsonist. They investigate home, business, vehicle, and wildland fires.
The dog and training are donated by State Farm to a community so that arson crimes will be investigated, prosecuted, and hopefully, act as a deterrent for fire setters.
This year, 17 law enforcement and fire investigators complete 200 hours training at the New Hampshire Fire Training Academy in Concord with their new canine partner. The intensive training drills take place day, night and weekends but after 4 weeks, they return to their communities as certified accelerant detection canine teams.
Deputy Pfaffenhauser and K-9 PJ who was born on Delaware Day which is December 7th, will also perform demonstrations for schools and other organizations. As a team Deputy Pfaffenhauser and K-9 PJ are proud to serve the entire state of Delaware. That’s because Delaware only has one Canine at any given time for the State Fire Marshal’s Office.