The State Farm Arson Dog Program trains new teams each year during a spring class and a fall class. From April 13 – May 9, eight handlers trained in Alfred, Maine with their new canine partners. Some of the handlers were new to canine handling while others were experienced handlers but they were all excited to meet and bond with their dogs. Meet the newest arson dog teams from the 2014 spring training class!
Detective David Young – Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office (Jacksonville, FL) – Detective Young was first introduced to an arson K-9 in 1992 during a training burn that was being conducted. That encounter set him on the path to becoming a state fire marshal. It took a lot of work but Detective Young is now an arson dog handler and has been working with his partner, K-9 Fresca, since they were certified in May 2014. They are investigating fires throughout the Jacksonville area.
Fire Investigator Thomas Domes – Trumbull County Fire & Explosion Unit (Warren, OH) – Investigator Domes has been with the Trumbull County Fire/Explosion Investigation Unit since June 2011. Prior to that, he was a Lieutenant and EMT with Mecca Township Fire Department in Cortland, OH. Tom worked closely with retired arson dog handler Chief Matt Balut in preparation for his new role as an arson dog handler. Chief Balut worked with his partner K-9 Hydra from April 2002 until she passed away September 2013. Investigator Domes has been working with his partner, K-9 Trace, since they were certified in May 2014. They are investigating fires throughout northeastern Ohio.
Deputy State Fire Marshal John Galaska – Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office (Georgetown, DE) – Deputy Fire Marshal Galaska is an experienced arson dog handler who first trained as the secondary (back-up) handler for Deputy Fire Marshal and K-9 Sparks. K-9 Sparks has been investigating fires in Delaware since May 2008 until his retirement this year. K-9 Sparks was also nominated in the Arson Dog category for the 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. With the retirement of K-9 Sparks, John has now become the primary handler for K-9 Tanya, a 2 ½ year old enthusiastic female black lab. Deputy Fire Marshal Galaska and K-9 Tanya became certified in May 2014. They are investigating fires throughout the State of Delaware.
Firefighter Matt Jones – Paris Fire Department (Paris, TX) – Firefighter Jones has worked in the fire service for the past four years. Before starting his career with the Paris Fire Department, Matt worked as a vet tech for eight years. He then moved into emergency medicine working at an animal ER, and ended up getting his paramedic certification and eventually into the fire service. Firefighter Jones went through four weeks of training in Maine and is partnered with K-9 Sadie, a two year old female yellow lab mix since they became certified in May 2014. They are investigating fires through the northeast Texas region.
Arson Investigator Greg Vespa – Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office (Belleville, IL) – Arson Investigator Vespa has been working for the Illinois State Fire Marshal since 2006 and was first trained as an arson dog handler through the ATF Arson K-9 program in 2007. Investigator Vespa had the honor of working with two accelerant detection canines before joining the State Farm Arson Dog Program. He is now partnered with K-9 Rocky, a two year old male yellow lab since they became certified in May 2014. They are investigating fires throughout southeastern Illinois, including the East St. Louis area.
Arson Investigator Sean Reddy – Providence Fire Department (Providence, RI) – Arson Investigator Reddy has been on the Providence Fire Department for 27 years, serving the last 5 years as an Arson Investigator. Following their four weeks of training in Maine, Investigator Reddy and his partner, K-9 Tyler, were certified as an arson dog team in May 2014. They will investigate fires throughout Rhode Island.
Deputy State Fire Marshal Roman Ray – Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office (Alexandria, LA) – Deputy Fire Marshal Ray has been in Law Enforcement as a Police Officer for three years and recently started his new career as a Louisiana State Fire Marshal Deputy. He has always been interested in working with a canine partner since starting his law enforcement career and now that dream has come true. Deputy Fire Marshal Ray is working with his new partner, K-9 Billy, since they became certified in May 2014. They will investigate fires in the Alexandria area of Louisiana.
Agent Jerry Means – Colorado Bureau of Investigation (Denver, CO) – Agent Means is certainly no stranger to the arson dog program. His first canine partner was K-9 Erin and they were a team from August 2000 until April 2007. K-9 Erin passed away in May 2007. His second canine partner was K-9 Sadie and they were investigating fires throughout Colorado from May 2007 until her retirement in April 2014. K-9 Sadie was also the winner of the Law Enforcement/Arson Dog category for the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards in 2011.