Barney the Sprocker Spaniel and Regional Hydrocarbon Detection Dog Handler Tim Marston, have started their careers as the 16th fire dog team in the UK.
The pair will be an arsonist’s worst nightmare, detecting ignitable fluids at an investigation scene often within minutes.
They join the existing dog team of Dave Coss and Dexter at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, working across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire Fire Service’s in the East Midlands region.
Previously a Tier Two Fire Investigator, Tim joined Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service 30 years ago. He started as a firefighter at 22 years old, before joining the fire investigation team later in his career. He bought 12-month-old Barney in December 2021 and has been training him since.
Bryn Coleman, Head of Prevention, Protection and Fire Investigation at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, said “it’s great to have Tim and Barney join us as a second fire dog team. The pair will bring critical resilience across the region, and beyond.
“We take deliberate fire setting very seriously at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, and work hard to discourage the behaviour. We will always be there for our communities when you are in need, but not only do deliberate fires put people at risk, they take us away from other emergencies. Tim and Barney will be an invaluable part of tackling arson and keeping people safe.”
Tim Marston said, “The main benefit for Barney and I joining the region is resilience.
“We’ll be working with the current fire dog team, Dave Coss and Dexter, which will allow us to remain flexible to the needs of the Service and region. There may be times where we’re both at different incidents, or one dog team is delivering training to crews and the other is available for fire investigations. It will mean that if Dave, myself, or a dog is unwell, we can still provide the service.
“The Regional Hydrocarbon Detection Dog Handler role involves close work with the Police and Crime Scene Investigation.
“Barney is trained to detect ignitable liquids like petrol or white spirit. A request can come through at any time from Joint Fire Control, and we can be mobilised to anywhere within the region. We’ll also assist at incidents across the UK with mutual consent.
“Barney can search suspects clothing, vehicles, houses, boats, or any other structure, whether that be domestic or commercial, including large outdoor areas. We’ll work together to thoroughly search the scene, as our aim is to clear the search area to prove or disprove the presence of ignitable liquids.
“A fire dog speeds up the process of detection, but they can only tell you when an ignitable liquid is present – dogs can’t tell us which liquid they’ve identified, so once Barney has indicated one of his target substances, it then goes away for forensic testing.
“If we aren’t at an incident, we can provide training for crews working towards their Tier One fire investigation. We’ll also be involved in training other organisations, both regionally and nationally. There’s national standardising for fire investigation procedures to implement, and court support to provide, and I’m really looking forward to meeting the public at community events. Barney is quite partial to getting a fuss from everyone.
“I feel honoured to be given this opportunity to return to NFRS and become a dog team. I’m very proud of my previous work as an operational firefighter and trainer, but I’ve always had a passion for fire investigation.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to work within the region with many of my former colleagues. The support and expertise I’ve had from Dave Coss and South Yorkshire Police (who have assisted in Barney’s training) has been unparalleled, and it’s nice to see this role come to fruition.
“I’m confident that Barney and I will succeed in this role. Throughout my career I’ve aspired to do the best I can, and this new adventure will be a pleasure and a challenge.”