Accelerant K-9 handler Jeff Lunder of Delburne and his dog

Accelerant K-9 handler Jeff Lunder of Delburne and his dog

Canine team the arsonists’ worst nightmare

Even though she’s a German shepherd, Eza is a rare breed.

Even though she’s a German shepherd, Eza is a rare breed.

That’s because she can go through a scene after a fire to help determine whether there are any signs of substances — like gasoline — that could have helped spread flames. That could mean the fire was arson.

Eza is half of a specially trained canine accelerant team — the other half is Jeff Lunder, her owner.

There are only a few other teams in Western Canada — one each in Edmonton and Kelowna, and the Calgary fire department has two dogs used only within city limits.

In 2011, Lunder, 58, retired as a fire-medic after 36 years with City of Red Deer Emergency Services. He has also trained dogs for 40 years through the Red Deer Kennel Club and judges obedience trials in Canada and the United States for almost 30 years.

He found the idea of training an accelerant dog intriguing so he decided to try it.

Lunder has always had German shepherds — his favourite — but when his shepherds were checked out to possibly train, they were called “couch potatoes.” He needed a dog with a lot of drive.

He ended up buying the purebred Eza from the RCMP training kennels in Innisfail when she was nine months old. He then hired a retired police officer, who had been involved with the RCMP dog training program, to help him train Eza.

Eza (pronounced eeza) is now three years old and after a lot of hard work the pair are a certified accelerant canine team. The dog’s training continues every day.

She’s a working dog, not a pet, said Lunder.

“I thought it would be a real easy thing to do, and it was one of the hardest things I ever did in my life,” he said.

In her first year, Eza was exposed to many different conditions, such as slippery floors, darkness, heights, going under and over things, and jumping on things. Then she was introduced to the smell of gasoline that had sat out for months so it wasn’t as potent. It was placed on a rag inside a toy, so she couldn’t get at it.

She learned to bring the toy back, then to do a passive alert (sitting at the source of the odour) and then to stay until she was told different.

Over time Eza was trained to recognize 13 different accelerants, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, acetone, kerosene, lighter fluid and barbecue lighter fluid.

In September, Lunder took Eza to the U.S. for a week, to be certified by the Canine Accelerant Detection Organization. The canine team must attain 100 per cent to pass. They passed, and now must be re-certified every year.

Eza and Lunder can now work for any organization, and they’ve been extremely busy. Lunder has a contract with Global Forensics, which does a lot of fire investigating for insurance companies.

At the first fire scene Eza attended, she found accelerants, said Lunder. He can’t talk about the case because it is under investigation and could end up in court.

The dog is only a tool, said Lunder, and if she does hit on anything, it’s marked, evidence is collected and then sent to a lab for testing. Lunder keeps meticulous log records of everything he does with the dog during an investigation as well as when they are practising and training.

At least once a week, whether a fire is suspicious or not, the pair will go through a fire site as an exercise to keep Eza on her toes (paws). He always checks a site first though to make sure it’s safe to send the dog through it. He admits that he worries all the time about what she may be inhaling.

They’ve been all over Central Alberta.

“It’s a blast. It really is. It’s exciting and doing what I did for my whole career, but at a different level.”

Eza enjoys it. “When we get to a scene she just goes into another gear. It’s incredible. She just loves to go.”

The use of working dogs continues to expand.

Lunder said there is a police canine team in the U.S. where the dog can detect electronics, by way of the precious metals used in them. The dog can find items like hidden cell phones or computers.

This is getting a lot of interest by police departments in the States, Lunder said.

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read