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Tweeting Dog Aims to Cut Arson

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6:01am 5th October 2012

A Cornish dog trained to check for signs of arson becomes the first in the UK to go on Twitter.

Nelson is being used to warn people of the dangers of starting fires.

The spaniel can sniff out accelerants like petrol in minutes.

Believed to be the first UK fire and rescue service fire dog to take to Twitter, the four-year old springer spaniel has gained more than 40 followers in his first month on the site.

Owner and handler Watch Manager Mark Smith set up Nelson’s account to help promote fire safety messages and give an insight into the canine’s daily life. He said: “Nelson is a popular dog and many people stop to talk to us about his work whenever he joins me at community events,” said Mark. “Twitter seemed to be the logical next step. Now we can share details of Nelson’s work to a wider audience, from scent detection to safety messages.Nelson the tweeting fire dog!

“Nelson is steadily gaining more followers on Twitter, but fortunately he isn’t letting this new found fame go to his head – he still has an important role within the Service’s fire investigation team!”

Nelson joined Mark, and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service in July 2009. When not at work, the dog lives with Mark and his family in Bodmin along with the Smiths’ three other dogs.

As CFRS’s only FI dog - or hydrocarbon detection dog, to give him his official title – Nelson is brought in to identify the cause of fires which are thought to have been the work of arsonists. Trained to detect minute traces of accelerants, Nelson can detect a variety of substances from petrol to acetone.

When he picks up a scent of an accelerant at the scene of a fire, Nelson will indicate to Mark and a police Scene of Crimes Officer (SOCO). Samples are then sent off for forensic analysis with the aim that the evidence will support any subsequent prosecution.

“To Nelson, this vital work is a game,” explained Mark. “But it is well known that fire investigation dogs can detect the presence of ignitable liquids with greater accuracy and speed than humans, or specialised detection devices brought to the scene.

“He’s a fantastic dog, who loves what he does. When working or training, Nelson’s reward is play time with a tennis ball - an arrangement he’s very happy with!”

6:01am 5th October 2012

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