Arson dog helps Rockford Fire investigations

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Rockford fire investigators' newest team member is already helping investigations move faster. Epi the arson dog is bringing a lot of help, as well as friendship to the department.

"I've been on the department for 22 years, and I never thought I'd have this opportunity, and it is so rewarding," said Arson Investigator Lieutenant John Mcgee who is Epi's handler.

Epi is 19-months-old and has been working with the department since Dec.

The department adopted Epi through a grant from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

John Mcgee trained along with Epi at an ATF academy in Virginia for six weeks to learn how to spot accelerants.

"Gasoline, for example, if that is used to start a fire, then she can come in, even after the fire's out, and determine if there was an actual accelerant in it or not," said Mcgee.

Epi will then stop to show she found something.

"From there, us as investigators would collect a sample of that and send it to the state crime lab for analysis and then determine what products were used," said Mcgee.

Epi has worked about a dozen fires since December. Mcgee says she's very dedicated.

"She's always smelling, sniffing, she'll go into an office, you know, at a school, for example, and she's sniffing the hallways. She doesn't really have an off button," said Mcgee.

Mcgee says she's quickly becoming much more than just a coworker.

"If she wasn't able to be with me anymore, it would be devastating, I wouldn't even know how to come to work. Our retired life will be about the same, so we'll probably retire together," said Mcgee.

Arson dogs are specifically matched with investigators by their personalities. Mcgee says he and Epi are the perfect fit because they are both very energetic.