A new four-legged trainee has joined the ranks of the London Fire Brigade dog detectives. Watson the English springer spaniel is going through an intensive training programme with the hope he will be put to work alongside his canine colleagues Sherlock and Simba early next year.
In a first for the Brigade, Watson has come from a litter bred by the Metropolitan Police Service and has been gifted as part of a blue light collaboration scheme. Watson in turn, can look forward to a career of helping both the police and London Fire Brigade, by sniffing out evidence of arson.
The one-year-old pooch was officially handed over to Fire Investigation Officer Darren Woodhams, who will be his handler, at the force’s dog training establishment in Keston on December 18.
Fire Investigation dogs are trained to detect the presence of ignitable liquids at fire scenes, which are known as target substances. They will identify an area of interest, which is then documented before samples are taken for analysis by police. As well as sniffing out crime, the fire investigation dogs are also ambassadors for the Brigade, promoting fire safety messages to a wide range of communities.
Watson was initially selected by the Metropolitan Police Service based on his drive for play. His intensive reinforcement training programme rewards him with a tennis ball each time he detects one of his target substances.
Darren has been working with Watson since mid-October and he lives with him at his home, accompanying him to work when he’s on duty.
They have already completed one week’s training with fire dog specialist Clive Gregory – who has been training the Brigade’s dogs and handlers since the team was first established in 2000. They will complete another two weeks in January and there will then be a certification assessment and if he passes that, he will become a fully qualified member of the Fire Investigation team.