She’s been on the squad for about six months now but more recently Pyper, an accelerant K9 at the Hampton Division of Fire & Rescue, has officially become part of the team after receiving her very own matching turnout coat.
The 1-year-old Labrador received the LION Redzone coat as a donation from the North America Fire Equipment Company Inc., the distributor who also outfitted the entire department earlier this fall with what Battalion Chief Anthony Chittum called “particulate gear.”
“Cancer is one of the biggest killers of firefighters after they retire and this particulate gear basically will lessen the environmental impact of fires on our individuals,” he said.
The more than 280 members at the department were sized for their second set of specialty gear in May and have since been issued a new coat, particulate hood, gloves, and boots.
As an accelerant detection K9, Pyper’s job is to go onto a scene after a fire to assist investigators in determining arson or whether the fire was started from gasoline, kerosene, or any other ignitable fluid.
And, according to her trainer and handler, Assistant Fire Marshal Chris Persons, Pyper is the only accelerant detection K9 in the Hampton Roads region.
“She serves the seven cities and if anyone calls, we can go even farther than that,” he said in a recent interview.
Pyper was added to the department in May as part of State Farm’s “Arson Dog Training Program” and following her predecessor’s (Taylor) retirement after 11 years of service, Chittum said.
Chittum said the purpose of Pyper’s coat isn’t to protect her from fires but is necessary simply because she’s a member of the team.
“She is a fire department employee, as funny as that sounds, but that gear was given to her so she can match all the others in the department,” Chittum said.