Darlington County Fire District welcomes Arson K9 Paige
Darlington County Fire District has welcomed a new Arson K9 thanks to a generous program through State Farm. This special K9 is Paige, an accelerant detection canine (K9) who partnered with Deputy Chief John Shoemake during a four week canine training school. The program is funded by State Farm and is available to fire departments and
law enforcement agencies across the United States. Since its beginning in 1993, the State Farm Arson Dog Program has placed more than 450 dogs in 46 states, three Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia. All arson dog teams are trained by Maine Specialty Dogs and certified by the Maine State Police.
Paige was introduced to the public by her handler, Deputy Fire Chief John Shumake, at a news conference on Tuesday, June 13, 2023 at DCFD Headquarters, located at 137 N. Center Rd, in Hartsville.
Attending the event were S.C. State Senator Gerald Malloy and S.C. Rep. Robert Williams, both of whom have been instrumental in supporting and acquiring necessary funding for the fire district over the years. Representatives from State Farm Insurance were also on hand to answer questions about the program. Paige happily identified the vessels which contained certain accelerants, even though only a tiny fraction of a drop was used. A tiny drop was placed on one of Rep. Williams’ and one of Sen. Malloy’s shoes and Paige quickly identified their location, delighting everyone in attendance.
State Farm provided the scholarship funding of approximately $25,000 for the cost of the animal plus the 28-day training program for the handler.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 280,000 intentional fires are reported to U.S. fire departments each year, with associated annual losses of 420 civilian deaths, 1,360 civilian injuries, and $1.3 billion in direct property damage. The actual number of arson fires and the amount of property damage is likely much higher, as arson is an underreported crime. Arson dogs played a crucial role in determining the cause of many of these fires.
Accelerant detection canines, commonly called arson dogs, are trained law enforcement dogs that are used to sniff out evidence at fire scenes. These canine heroes work alongside their human handler, identifying the cause of home or business fires, assisting in cold crime cases, and uncovering potential evidence in homicides.
“We feel local officials should have every tool possible to combat this costly -and sometimes deadly — crime,” said Kim Conyers, Corporate Responsibility Representative for State Farm. “These K-9s enable investigators to do their job more efficiently and effectively. The scope of arson goes beyond impacting insurance companies – it affects the personal and financial well-being of us all.
Training dogs to detect accelerants at fire scenes saves time and money in arson investigations.”
This new team of K9 Paige and Deputy Chief Shoemake will investigate fires in Darlington County and be available to assist other departments in the area. K9 Paige is a 2 year old, black, lab. For more information about the Arson Dog Program visit www.arsondog.org