Fire investigation dogs

(the most loved members of staff) are specially trained to identify substances that can start fires.

Sherlock, Watson and Simba might look like any other dog you pass in the street but they have a special talent: they are our fire investigation dogs.

Specially trained to identify a variety of ignitable substances, our four-legged friends assist with criminal investigations to determine whether a fire has been started deliberately.

Using their keen sense of smell, which is more accurate than technology that has been designed to detect ignitable substances, our fire dogs have helped the Fire Investigation Team provide a higher level of accuracy and improve the conviction rate against people who deliberately start fires.

The speed at which they can sniff out ignitable substances has reduced the time required to investigate the scene of a fire. If nothing is found, our Fire Investigation Team can focus on other source of ignition.

A picture of Sherlock, one of London Fire Brigade's three fire dogs

Training our fire dogs

Our fire dogs are selected at a young age based on their high drive for play.

They follow a positive reinforcement based training programme, rewarding them with a tennis ball each time they detect an ignitable substance.

While attending fire safety college, our dogs get tested on a number of disciplines, of varying difficulty, including finding traces of a substance in:

  • A single room
  • Multiple rooms across multiple floors
  • Hard to test areas such as letter boxes and under stairs

Once the dogs have detected an ignitable substance they will wait by their discovery for further instruction from their handler.

When investigating fire scenes, the dog wear boots to protect their paws from shards of glass and other sharp objects; although it might look dangerous, the dogs are never sent into hot scenes and there has been no report of any injury to any fire dog, throughout the country, while working.

The dogs provide almost ten years service once trained and attend annual training refreshers to ensure they aren't barking up the wrong tree when it comes to identifying substances correctly.

Caring for our fire dogs

Our fire dogs all live with their respective handlers who, along with the Brigade, are responsible for their welfare needs.

While on duty, the Brigade provides facilities such as kennels and specially adapted transportation.

We adhere to the guidance in Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act and take a number of steps to protect our dogs including: providing a suitable diet; protecting them from pain, suffering and disease; and ensuring they exhibit normal behaviour.

Leigh Day logo

One of our fire investigation dogs, Watson, is sponsored by Law firm, Leigh Day.