The West Fargo Fire Department welcomed a new partner in detecting arson, K-9 Mika.

The four-legged fire department trainee is only the second K-9 fire detective in the state, joining Mandan Fire Department Captain Shane Weltikol and his Arson K-9 Webbster partnered and trained in 2017 and have been investigating fires in the state and Canada since.

K-9 Mika, who is an accelerant detection specialist, certified according to the standards of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy will be working sites with her partner, West Fargo Fire Department Arson Investigator John Neeb.

The team will investigate fires in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.

Neeb and Mika recently graduated from the State Farm Arson Dog Training Program, which provided Mika and the training through a $40,000 grant, according to Fire Chief Dan Fuller.

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“An arson dog extends the capabilities of the investigator,” said West Fargo Fire Department Deputy Chief of Professional Standards Tom Clark. “The scent-discriminating abilities of a canine are better than any equipment we can take to a fire scene when arson is suspected. The time our investigators spend sifting through the rubble at a fire scene will be significantly reduced with Mika’s help. We’re grateful for this important addition to our team.”

Neeb is looking forward to a time in the near future (once it’s safe to do so) when he can conduct a public demonstration showcasing Mika’s amazing accelerant detection sniffing abilities.

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 amount of property damage is likely much higher as arson is an under reported crime. Arson dogs played a key role in helping to determine the cause of many of these fires.