Middletown’s newest resource to investigate fires in the city is a first for the region.
Scottie, a Labrador retriever from the Animal Friends Humane Society, recently became an Accelerant Detection canine officer, said firefighter Chris Klug.
The canine is named in honor of a fallen Middletown firefighter, and like Scott D. Bruggeman, who died last year, the dog’s mission is public safety.
Scottie is the only Accelerant Detection canine officer in the region, according to the department’s fire chief.
After the Middletown Division of Fire expanded its arson task force late last year, it was suggested that an accelerant sniffing canine should be added. The Animal Friends Humane Society notified city leaders and the fire department about a Labrador it thought may be a possible candidate.
The dog was assigned to Klug, 34, an eight-year veteran on the department, and for the past three months they have been inseparable: training five days a week at the police department’s canine center, working every three days in fire headquarters, and living together.
“He’s my partner, my right-hand man,” said Klug, who has a 6-year-old daughter, Tasiya. “He’s part of my family.”
When Scottie was certified as an Accelerant Detection canine, he became Middletown’s sixth canine officer in the police and fire departments. There are five in the police department: Odin (Sgt. Andy Warrick), Bear (Officer Anthony Gibson), Koda (Officer Dennis Jordan), Aki (Officer Marco Caito) and Chase (Officer Ryan Morgan).
Middletown will make the dog available to other fire departments in Butler County, said Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli. The closest dog certified to detect arson fires is located in Columbus, he said.
Because of his keen sense of smell that was trained, Scottie can detect 15 different possible accelerants used in a fire faster than humans or traditional equipment, Klug said. He has also been trained to detect accelerants even days after the fire started.
As part of the dog’s training, Klug hides burned pieces of wood covered with gasoline. Scottie finds the evidence, then freezes until Klug releases him from his duty.
Scottie will be taken to fire scenes, even those not thought to be arson, then slowly implemented into the investigation team, Klug said. He called Scottie “a great tool” inside and outside the fire station. He serves as a stress reliever to firefighters and is popular when youth groups tour the fire department, Klug said.
When the station received the dog, it was natural to name him after Bruggeman, who died in 2016 after battling health issues for two years, Klug said. Bruggeman’s and Scottie’s personalities are similar, he said. Both are outgoing and energetic.
Now, Klug said, Scottie is a constant reminder to the firefighters about their fallen brother.
“Never forget,” Klug said.
Then he added: “Scott is a great guy. It’s like we still have a piece of Scott here. Scott is still here with us.”
Ironically, Scottie joined the fire department almost one year to the day after Bruggeman died.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Klug said.