Accelerant Detection K9 “Blondie” Joins the Office of the State Fire Marshal

Accelerant Detection K9 "Blondie" Joins the Office of the State Fire Marshal  at Deep Creek Lake, MD

(L-R) Deputy Chief/K9 Commander John A. Nelson, State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci, M/DSFM Oliver Alkire & K9 Blondie, Chief Deputy Jason M. Mowbray

When K9 “Kachina” retired nearly two months ago on a Friday, her handler, Master Deputy Oliver Alkire, was back in class the following Monday to begin training for a second four-legged partner at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive National Canine Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia. While most of the canines in the Accelerant Detection program are just over a year old, he was surprised to learn that one of the seven dogs procured was a few years older and had already graduated from the program before.

Last week, he and 4-year-old K9 “Blondie” graduated and will be one of only 65 ATF trained accelerant detection teams in the United States.

Blondie was initially trained for Guiding Eyes for the Blind before being acquired by the ATF for the accelerant detection canine program. She was transferred to the Office of the State Fire Marshal after two years with another agency.

Master Deputy Alkire and Blondie and six other handlers from across the country graduated last Thursday. This certification program is an intensive 12-week school focused on accelerant detection canine methodology, fire chemistry, safety and first aid, health, wellness, and several investigative disciplines. The practical skills and team exercises were conducted in and around vehicles, structures, humans, equipment, and fire scenes to hone Blondie’s scent discrimination skills.

Blondie is trained to detect a variety of ignitable liquids that could be used to accelerate a fire and has performed tens of thousands of repetitions for odor recognition and detection during training. ATF uses a food and praise reward training methodology that exposes canines to six classifications of ignitable liquids. The scientific methodology and testing protocols are certified by the ATF National Laboratory and produce an extremely versatile, mobile, and accurate accelerant detection tool.

With six teams, the Office of the State Fire Marshal is honored and privileged to have the country’s largest partnership of ATF-trained canine teams.

“I am very proud that the ATF has allowed the Office of the State Fire Marshal to be partners in their Accelerant Detection Canine program for nearly 30 years,” stated State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci. “We are dedicated to assisting ATF whenever they call, and this long-standing partnership is proof. We are excited to have K9 Blondie join our family. And she will be in great hands, and Kachina will be an excellent big sister. I am even more proud of our handlers and their families who dedicate themselves to working and training with their canine partners seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

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