PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP, Ohio-- There are 53 federal ATF-certified K-9 units in the country and one of them is stationed in Painesville Township.
Lt. Gordon Thompson has been the K-9 handler for the Painesville Township Fire Department for 12 years. “I never thought being in the fire service that I would have a K-9 partner and it’s been one of the best experiences of my career,” Thompson said.
A home on North Shore Drive in Painesville Township burned down on August 19; thankfully, no one was injured in the fire and Thompson said it was ruled accidental. The home is now an ashy shell, but it is a perfect training ground for the department’s K-9, Ian.
Ian is a 7-year-old Lab who didn’t pass seeing-eye school and was later recruited by the ATF to be an accelerant-detection dog.
He’s trained as a food-reward dog. “So he works for his food. He never eats out of a bowl; all his food comes out of my hand,” explained Thompson. Thompson has to train Ian 365 days a year, otherwise he doesn’t eat.
Ian is the property of the federal government, so Thompson has strict guidelines he must follow to keep Ian at the right weight and in proper shape.
“We have to make sure their weight falls within a 5% range. If he goes above or below I have a short amount of time to get him back within those limits,” Thompson said.
Thompson used the North Shore house first as a negative training ground. Ian went through the home but found no accelerants and didn’t get any food. When FOX 8 came to do the story it was set up for Ian to find multiple accelerants, and he did.
“When I have an accidental fire I like to use that fire with nothing in it. That way the dog knows that not every fire he goes to he is going to eat so he doesn’t get complacent; it keeps him on his toes,” Thompson said.
Thompson and Ian are on call 24/7 and could be deployed to investigate a fire at any time, anywhere in the country.