South East Wales

Wales' first fire investigation dog Sam dies at 18

Sam with his handler Matt Jones Image copyright South Wales Fire and Rescue
Image caption "Sam meant the world to me," said Mr Jones

Wales' first fire investigation dog has died in retirement, aged 18.

Golden labrador Sam joined South Wales Fire and Rescue in 2003 and attended more than 5,000 incidents during his five years of service.

He was trained to sniff out petrol, lighter fuel and other substances used in arson attacks.

Sam's handler Matt Jones said he was "instrumental in finding evidence" and he was "extremely proud" to have worked with him.

Image copyright South Wales Fire and Rescue
Image caption Sam could sniff out 11 different types of accelerants
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Media captionWales' first fire investigation dog Sam dies at 18

One of Mr Jones' most memorable cases was Sam finding evidence that helped secure the convictions of two men who set fire to a bingo hall in Ely, Cardiff which killed a firefighter in 2004.

"He was more than just a dog as he was my partner and with me 24/7," said Mr Jones.

After he retired, Sam went to live with Mr Jones' parents in Rhymney, Caerphilly county.

"He was kept fit and my parents were certainly not shy in spoiling him."

Mr Jones said he was overwhelmed by the messages of condolence which came in after he tweeted: "Goodbye old friend, sleep tight...stand easy FI dog Sam".

Jennie Griffiths, head of Joint Fire Control, tweeted: "Sad news on the loss of Sam, the first fire investigation dog in Wales who helped solve many incidents".

"At ease Sam, good boy!"

Image copyright South Wales Fire and Rescue
Image caption Fire detection dogs Sam and Sammy
Image copyright South Wales Fire and Rescue

Sammy the spaniel had filled Sam's heat protection boots and was equally successful.

He was retired at the start of 2013 which coincided with Mr Jones' promotion to group manager. Since then the service has not had its own fire investigation dog.

In fact, Mr Jones said no fire service in Wales has its own fire investigation dog, they just use dogs from across the border when needed.

Fire dogs from around the UK

Image caption Cocker spaniel Murphy, from London, helps detect the causes of fire
  • Bryn, a 13-year-old border collie, works for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and has been deployed as far afield as Japan in 2011 after the earthquake and tsunami, and earthquake-hit Nepal in 2015
  • Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service's working dog is two-year-old cocker spaniel Archie, who wears fire boots to protect his paws from glass and hotspots after a blaze
  • Sherlock and Murphy are two cocker spaniels trained to sniff out the causes of fire for the London Fire Brigade
  • At Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Eric, a 17-month old black labrador, took over last month after his predecessor Cracker retired from 10 years on the job
  • Many fire dogs are keeping the public updated with their work - and playtime - on Twitter, including those from Surrey and the West Midlands

Mr Jones said there were other dogs, known as urban rescue dogs, which have a different role.

"While there have been advancements in technology, there will always be a role for working dogs in the service," he said.

"Fortunately they are now an asset we can share."

Image copyright South Wales Fire and Rescue
Image caption Sam enjoyed "seven happy years" of retirement, said Mr Jones

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