Warsaw Fire dog Bailey assists ATF with Indy fire investigation

After Thursday's huge fire at the Cosmopolitan in Indianapolis, a team from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headed to the city to help investigate.

And so did Bailey, a 7-year-old black Labrador partnered with Warsaw Fire Department's Michael Wilson.

Bailey and Wilson, a fire marshal who has been working with the dog since 2003, are also part of the ATF National Response Team for on-site investigations.

Bailey is assigned to the state of Indiana, and is one of just 77 dogs around the nation trained to work in arson detection, according to information provided by the Warsaw Fire Department.

Bailey's job is to detect any accelerants, the ignitable liquids present in arson cases. And while no arson has been determined in the Indianapolis case, the ATF arrived in Indianapolis on Friday to find out what started the blaze, the agency said in a press release.

Christopher Sadowski, a Columbus, Ohio, ATF special agent in charge, said early damage estimates exceed $20 million after the structure at Michigan Street and North Senate Avenue was totally destroyed.

Now authorities turn to finding out why — and that's where Bailey's special skills come in. Dogs have about 220 million receptors in their noses to detect scent, more than four times that of humans.

And according to the fire department, an ATF-trained dog like Bailey can sense just three drops of fuel that may be buried under fire debris four feet deep.

On average, Bailey works 60 fire scenes per year in Kosciusko County and around Indiana. And Bailey had a chance to show off Sunday during a demonstration in Indianapolis, one that was covered by local television stations WISH and WRTV. ATF agents were on hand to describe canine detection techniques.

According to the ATF, dogs are trained after a five-week course for handlers at the agency's training center in Virginia. A 10-week course also is offered for dogs to train in explosives detection.

The ATF program Web site says there are about 50 teams like Wilson and Bailey's around the country.

In addition to large fire scenes, teams have been used at the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 attacks, at the Olympic Games, and for other special events including presidential inaugurations and political conventions.

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