ATF dog training for duty with Reading Fire Department

'We're looking forward to having the dog here'

READING, Pa. - Reading fire investigators will soon be getting some help on the job, thanks to the federal government.

Gracie, a 2-year-old Labrador, is currently training to become the first accelerant-detection dog to be assigned to work with the Reading Fire Department.

"People hear these kinds of things and they think of a police dog," said Jeremy Searfoss, the city's fire marshal. "It's not trained like a police dog. It doesn't get worked like that."

Gracie will be one of three dogs assigned by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to Pennsylvania. The others will work in Philadelphia and Allegheny counties.

"These dogs detect dozens of different types of accelerants, anything from gasoline to kerosene, down to alcohol-based rubbing alcohol or something like that," Searfoss said. "These dogs are designed to be very friendly and very people-oriented."

Reading's fire investigators have had a need for the work of dogs like Gracie in the past, with its most recent request for help coming Monday night. Allentown's dog, Judge, helped to search for the cause of a two-alarm blaze on North Ninth Street.

"At this point in time, we believe that there is human hands involved here," Searfoss said of the fire. "The guys did a great job. Our members got water on the fire and really stopped the forward progress of this fire very quickly."

Lancaster's dog has also come to Reading's aid in searching for the cause of past fires.

"Just a tremendous resource for us, a great tool for what we do here," Searfoss told 69 News. "They're great dogs to work with, and we're looking forward to having the dog here and to start using the dog."​

Gracie will finish up her training at the ATF Canine Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia, in the coming weeks. She's expected to make her way north to Reading in December, according to Searfoss.

The ATF began its Accelerant Detection Canine program in 1986. Approximately 50 canine teams across the country currently participate, according to the ATF's website. All are re-certified on a yearly basis and are utilized by the ATF National Response Team on fire-related call-outs.

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