Accelerant Detection Canine Program

Fire and Rescue NSW runs an accelerant detection canine program, the first of its kind for Australasian fire services.

Accelerant detection canines and their handler can cover large areas quickly to narrow down the area for frontline firefighters to undertake fire origin and cause analysis.

The results of their discoveries at the fire scene can then be used by Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Police and the Coroner’s Office.

The Fire and Rescue NSW K9 project started in 1995 with Ellie the golden labrador. Ellie was donated by Australian Customs Service in 2000 and worked with Station Officer Phil Etienne. Ellie was able to quickly and accurately establish or dismiss whether a liquid accelerant has been used or not (this ability has been evaluated and confirmed by a doctoral thesis research project and an honours thesis research project undertaken by forensic science students with the University of Technology, Sydney). Ellie retired from active duty in June 2008 to enjoy a new life of leisure.

Fire and Rescue NSW are leaders nationally in this field. Accelerant detection canines are 97% accurate and enjoy a high profile within Fire and Rescue NSW and externally as a tool for fire prevention and promotion of community fire safety messages.

Accelerant detection canines can smell accelerant in smaller concentrations than any portable scientific equipment currently available and can work easily in confined spaces. Accelerant detection canines reduces the time spent by investigators and fire crews in hazardous atmospheres and environments such as when the building is unstable or there is asbestos present and can rapidly detect the location of accelerant, which reduces the time an investigator and fire crews need to spend excavating large fire scenes.