(Fire dogs Sherlock and Simba. Photo: London Fire Brigade)
Simba the fire investigation dog is responsible for sniffing out accelerants after a suspected arson.The two-year-old springer spaniel is one of two dogs at the London Fire Brigade whose job is investigate serious fires and gather evidence.
After a fire in Centurion Square, Woolwich, Simba indicated multiple points where an accelerant was found.
The fire started at around 1.20am on September 6, 2018. Eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters attended the scene.
A woman from Sierra Leone, who had been visiting family, was found dead at the scene.
Two other people left the property before the arrival of the brigade and were taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service.
(Simba wearing his fire boots. Photo: London Fire Brigade)
Fire investigators determined the fire to be suspicious and Simba was deployed to help ascertain where the fire started and whether an accelerant had been used.
The springer spaniel is trained to sniff out a number of accelerants, including petrol, whether it’s burnt, evaporated or neat.
Fire investigator Anton Keach, Simba’s handler, said: “Within a matter of seconds of getting to the gatepost, which was about three metres down the path from the front door, Simba indicated that there was something there. The fact that this was quite a way from the door suggested how much accelerant had been used.
“When we went up to the property, Simba identified there had been an accelerant used in other areas up to the door and beyond the front door. He worked very quickly, making it a more effective investigation.
“Without Simba’s keen sense of smell, it would have taken fire investigators a lot longer to identify the areas where the accelerant was found. Some of the things that Simba found may not have even registered using the equipment available to fire investigators.”
(Simba at a fire scene. Photo: London Fire Brigade)
Simba and Mr Keach also did a search of the area to see if the suspects had dropped or discarded anything when they left.
Last month, Elliott Robinson and William Smith were sentenced to life imprisonment with minimum terms of 31 years and 32 years respectively for the murder of the woman who died in the Woolwich fire.
This year, the brigade’s two fire dogs, Simba and six-year-old cocker spaniel Sherlock, have searched 41 fire scenes. In 20 of these cases, they have identified one of their target substances.