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Lila ready for quiet life after sniffing out arsonists

COURTESY OF PF&R - Lila the arson dog for Portland Fire & Rescue, and her handler, Lt. Fabian Jackson, helped find evidence of arson in 168 cases during the past seven years. Lila retires this week.When Portland Fire & Rescue’s arson dog Lila retires this week, she’ll end up in a good home with three other dogs.

Lila, the 8½-year-old dog that has spent the past seven years sniffing out arson accelerants in burned buildings, retires Wednesday, Nov. 4, to the home of her handler, fire bureau Lt. Fabian Jackson. She and Jackson have worked together for seven years, and now she’ll be part of his family, according to Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman Lt. Rich Tyler.

In the meantime, Jackson will travel to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Canine Center in Front Royal, Va., to be paired with another arson dog. It will be the fire bureau’s fourth dog. Besides Lila, the bureau has had accelerant-sniffing dogs Charlotte and Cheyanne on the job, Tyler said.

Lila’s career, which included searching through 168 fire scenes, about a third of those outside Portland, was celebrated Monday, Nov. 2, with a ceremony at Station 1 in downtown Portland.

COURTESY OF PF&R - Lila's accelerant-sniffing abilities have been used by agencies around the state and in Washington, California and Arizona.

Pretty good at her job

Lila began her career as an arson dog in December 2008, helping arson investigators by sniffing for accelerants (gasoline, kerosene and other liquids or chemicals) used to intentionally start fires. Tyler said the fire bureau usually retires arson dogs after nine years.

Portland Fire & Rescue is the only regional firefighting agency to have an arson dog, he said. Because the dogs are provided by the federal ATF program, Portland’s K-9 team has helped solve arson cases for 19 other departments across the state and in Washington, California and Arizona, Tyler said.

There’s no cost to get arson dogs through the ATF program, he said, and the fire bureau agreed to provide the K-9 team to regional agencies when needed for investigations.

Lila has been pretty good at her job, he said. “The ATF says she’s one of the best trained and one of the most accurate accelerant dogs that they have had in their program,” Tyler said. “Her detection of accelerants has helped convict numerous arsonists.”

In 2011, Lila’s sniffing skills helped convict Linn County arsonists Joshua Bell of Lebanon and Jebidiah Ferrell of Albany, who admitted to setting several arson fires in the Albany area in 2010.

She also helped convict 58-year-old Daniel Allyn Suratt in a September 2012 domestic violence case in which Suratt admitted to intentionally setting fire to the house on Northeast 60th Avenue. Lila’s search of the burned house hit on 11 spots where Suratt poured gasoline in the house to start the fire.

COURTESY OF PF&R - Portland Fire & Rescue is celebrating the career of Lila the arson dog Monday, Nov. 2, at Station 1. Lila officially retires this week.


Kevin L. Harden is digital media editor for Pamplin Media Group. 503-546-5167. email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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