With gallant cowboys, rotten scoundrels, and plenty of good bar brawls, the Wild West has long been portrayed as rugged andlawless. There may be no state that has a richer history than Kansas when it comes to the timeless struggle between lawman and outlaw. Infamous lawmen such as James “Wild Bill” Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and William Barclay “Bat” Masterson valiantly worked to keep the residents of Kansas safe. Dodge City, Kansas was even the setting of the long-running radio and television series Gunsmoke. The series followed the adventures of fictional U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon as he dealt with gunfighters, cattle rustlers, and other criminals while enforcing the law in the city. The tradition of courageous law enforcement continues even today thanks to the amazing arson dog teams of Kansas.
Fire Investigator Don Birmingham – Wichita Fire Department (Wichita, KS)
K-9 Ashley (April 1993 – 1999; passed away September 2001)
Investigator Don Birmingham with the Wichita Fire Department met his canine partner Ashley in April 1993 during the second State Farm Arson Dog Program training school. During their six year career together, Don and K-9 Ashley worked 161 fire scenes that resulted in 33 felony arrests for arson, aggravated arson and homicide.
K-9 Ashley enjoyed two years of retirement before passing away on September 11, 2001. Her contributions to Wichita did not end there. In December 2009, the Wichita Board of Park Commissioners unanimously approved the naming of Arson Canine Ashley’s Memorial Dog Park in Chapin Park, in recognition for the service she gave to the city and the Wichita Fire Department as the first accelerant detection canine in the city. Arson Canine Ashley’s Memorial Dog Park is located at 2400 East MacArthur Road in Wichita.
Fire Marshal Brad Henson – Olathe Fire Department (Olathe, KS)
K-9 Doogie (May 2000 – 2006; passed away January 2009)
Fire Marshal Brad Henson and K-9 Doogie were a successful accelerant detection canine team for the Olathe Fire Department. Doogie was a chocolate lab found in an animal shelter and when Fire Marshal Henson was first paired with his new canine partner, he didn’t know what to expect. By the time K-9 Doogie passed away in January 2009 at the age of thirteen, the duo had investigated more than 200 fires.
Chief Fire Investigator Rose Rozmiarek – Kansas State Fire Marshal (Topeka, KS)
K-9 Tana (August 2010 – current)
The State Farm Arson Dog Program did not have a canine team working in the capital city of Topeka since Robert Hillebert and K-9 Holmes investigated fires for the Topeka Fire Department from 1996 until 2000. After a 10 year gap, that all changed. In August 2010, Chief Fire Investigator Rose Rozmiarek with the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office traveled to Maine and trained with her new partner, Tana. Born in California and raised by a military family, Tana was a year old when she began accelerant detection service.
Even though Rose and K-9 Tana are headquartered in Topeka, their case assignments take them throughout the state of Kansas. Their work has resulted in several convictions, including a recent case that resulted in the conviction of a 26 year old man for the murder of his wife, aggravated arson, and endangering a child by setting their own house on fire. While holding his child in his arms, the man set his house on fire, resulting in the death of his wife and severe burns to his child. The child endured months of treatment for 2nd and 3rd degree burns, far away from his family and without his mother at his side to offer him comfort. Tana found the evidence that led to an aggravated arson conviction.
In June 2012, Rose and K-9 Tana traveled with sculptor Austin Weishel, State Farm, American Humane Association, and Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Jerry Means with K-9 Sadie as they toured the country with the National Fire Dog Monument. The group made stops in state capitals as they drove the monument from Colorado to Washington DC for final placement. The monument celebrates the commitment that accelerant detection canines and their handlers make in keeping their communities safe and was formally dedicated in October 2013.
Besides investigating fires, Tana conducts demonstrations and promotes fire safety. She works with children during fire prevention week and is a regular at Kansas State Fair Emergency Preparedness Day events. At home Tana enjoys playing fetch and spending time with her other animal family members. In fact, the incredible work of K-9 Tana has resulted in her nomination for the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Award in the Arson Dog category. First round voting for the AHA Hero Dog Awards runs through June 6, 2014.
Fire Investigator Kris Smyth – Kansas State Fire Marshal (Scott City, KS)
K-9 Scout (August 2011 – current)
The Kansas State Fire Marshal’s office added a second team to their arson investigation unit in August 2011. Fire Investigator Kris Smyth traveled to Alfred, ME and began training with his new canine partner Scout. Investigator Smyth and K-9 Scout investigate fires throughout the western half of the State of Kansas, including the historic towns of the Wild West. Investigator Smyth and K-9 Scout are popular attractions at school demonstrations and at the Kansas State Fair Emergency Preparedness Day events.