BOWLING GREEN -- Millie, the Bowling Green Fire Department's accelerant detection K-9, has proved to be a valuable member of the department in her first few months on the job.
At a recent competition, though, Millie, demonstrated that she was the best in show.
Millie and her handler, BGFD Capt. Michael Cornwell, traveled to Boston this month to be recertified by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a process each ATF-certified accelerant detection canine team must go through each year.
"They have different scenarios that the dogs are tested on," Cornwell said, describing the process through which teams are recertified. "There has to be 100 percent accuracy" in detecting accelerants.
In the recertification process, dogs are directed to find evidence of accelerants in different scenarios, such as an open field test or a recently burned structure.
This year's trip to Boston also included a competition among the approximately 50 canine teams across the country, in which dogs are sent out to locate different accelerant odors on items such as clothing, shoes and carpet.
Cornwell said the dog and the handler are going in blind during the competition, not knowing where drops of accelerant have been placed.
Millie was able to detect with pinpoint accuracy a single drop of accelerant left on a length of burnt carpet, and proved to be accurate enough to detect accelerant on other surfaces to win the Top Dog competition at the ATF recertification.
"The biggest thing for me about this is how proud I am of her," Cornwell said. "If there's any scene where she will be put to use, she will be accurate and reliable."
A 2-year old black Labrador retriever, Millie has been with the BGFD for a few months, having been formally introduced in December.
Because of their heightened sense of smell, accelerant detection dogs are valued for their skill at helping firefighters investigate suspicious fires. Labrador retrievers are used for the job because of their intelligence, easygoing disposition and adaptability in different environments.
Cornwell and Millie trained together last year at the ATF Canine Training Center in Virginia.
Millie is trained daily by Cornwell, who rewards her with food for successfully alerting on accelerants during training exercises.
"She's worked on several fires in the last few months," Cornwell said. "There have been two fires where she has alerted (on the possible presence of accelerants) and both cases are still pending."