.. On Saturday January 24, 2015 fourteen members of Alpha SAR were given the opportunity to train at the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Training Field with members of the Spring Fire Department and Harris County Arson Investigator/K9 teams. The training for Alpha SAR included Human Remains Detection (HRD), Area Search, and Trailing scenarios. This is in addition to live burn training for the firefighters and accelerant detection for the Arson Investigator/K9 teams. The training field was a vast and dynamic place for our teams to experience different scenarios involving sheds and vehicles, such as buses, 18 wheelers, and burned out cars.
The Alpha SAR HRD handler/K9 teams were introduced to the new experience of working a burn scenario. Alpha SAR was allowed to place samples in the live burn scenario containers prior to the burns. This was done under the supervision of fire prevention professionals from Firerite. This gave our HRD teams the opportunity to try something new, samples exposed to the destructive forces of a fire. Additionally, the teams worked in more customary scenarios involving buildings, raised and surface samples, and vehicle search. This was a unique and interesting experience for our K9s and handlers.
For our Alpha SAR live find handler/K9 teams, the Spring Fire Department was very happy to volunteer in hiding from our K9s. The trailing teams enjoyed the experience of discovering the hidden firefighters in different scenarios including cross trails, distraction trails, open fields, heavy contamination starts and high finds. The area handler/K9 teams also utilized the available firefighter volunteers to practice their field search prowess including finding their subjects in abandoned vehicles. One particularly willing and enthusiastic firefighter hid from our K9s in a raised crate located in storage shed for over an hour. His patience and creative location was a challenging and great experience for our Area and Trailing teams.
After spending the day watching the skill and speed with which the Spring Fire Department firefighters work, our team is excited to schedule more dual trainings in the future. There was talk of adding a rubble pile to their training field to allow the inclusion of disaster search scenarios in our future trainings together. Working with the Arson Investigator/K9 teams and being allowed to see how efficiently and effectively they work was an intriguing adventure. Who knew that you could train a K9 to pin point one drop of any accelerant in any situation? We cannot thank the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office enough for allowing us access to their training field and the opportunity to witness the arson investigator/K9 teams in action. It was a great adventure having Alpha SAR at the Fire Marshal Training Center. Our team hopes that the useful and interesting encounter is the beginning of a cooperative and collaborative association with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s in future endeavors.