Reading Fire Department officially welcomes ATF K9 Gracie

Dog trained to detect fire accelerants

READING, Pa. - There's a new dog in town. She's no dalmatian, but she's already a friend in the Reading Fire Department.

K9 Gracie is a fire accelerant-detection dog provided by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF. She's the city's first ATF fire K9 and one of only three in Pennsylvania.

Whether the fire Gracie is called to is being investigated as arson, her specially-certified nose will make Fire Marshal Jeremy Searfoss' job easier.

"I can recollect being on my hands and knees at fires sniffing a floor, trying to figure out if I could smell anything," said Searfoss. "Gracie will now eliminate that guesswork in finding that initial area."

Gracie's been on the job for a week, with her first test coming early Thursday: a 3-alarm fire in the 300 block of Hollenbach Street in Reading.

"She did not specifically alert to anything," said Searfoss. "It was good to get her out, get her around the fire apparatus, get her around the flashing lights."

Searfoss also said that, had Gracie received her certification a few weeks sooner, she would have been called to the senior living community fire in West Chester last month.

As for her handler, Lt. Trent Zulick, it's a new chapter, personally and professionally.

"It's a lot more work than I initially thought it was going to be, but a lot of fun work," said Zulick.

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