Newly trained K-9s will help with arson investigations

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A celebration of a new graduating class of two K-9 units that will be a big help to investigators happened on Friday.

The graduation was held for two dogs, Baxter and Finnegan.

The Columbus Fire Department has one K-9, Paz who’s been on the force for 6 1/2 years. He’s retiring in a week and Baxter will start as his replacement. Finnegan will work for the State Fire Marshals Office.

“The City of Columbus there’s a lot of work,” says head trainer Dennis Hammond. A lot of work and extensive 10-week training to get Baxter and Finnegan prepared along with their handlers.

Rob Heising is the Fire and Explosives Investigator for the State of Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office. He says he was surprised by all of the training that takes place to get the K-9’s ready for action.

“When I first came out I was just like well how hard could it be to train a dog you know,” Heising said. “After the first day I was like, there’s a lot more to this than I thought. Even as far as how you handled the leash if you hold the leash too tight it can make him sit accidentally and you might get a false read. If you stand still for too long it might make the dog sit so you have to read the dog.”

Both Baxter and Finnegan will be used for accelerant detection, like sniffing out gasoline or ignitable liquids at an arson investigation.

Heising when asked about his K-9 Finnegan, “he can detect even the smallest amount of accelerant he can direct us directly to that because when you’re at a fire scene all that ash and debris is laying on the floor and you can’t see it but he can smell through that”.

Baxter will begin his first day of work on June 15 and Finnegan on June 25. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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