State Fire Marshal Announces New Accelerant Detection Canine Team

November 21, 2022

The Office of the State Fire Marshal added a new employee to the ranks yesterday, and while every newly minted Deputy State Fire Marshal is required to raise their right hand and be sworn in, K9 Deacon just wanted belly rubs and loved.

Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Jeff Thomas’s new partner, Deacon, is a 13-month-old female, purebred yellow Labrador retriever. She was raised by Paws for a Cause and later transitioned to Von Der King Kennels and Training before being acquired by the ATF for the accelerant detection canine program. They will join nearly 60 other teams across the country.

Senior Deputy Thomas and Deacon graduated from the ATF National Canine Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia, along with six other handlers from across the country. This certification program is an intensive 12-week school focused on accelerant detection canine methodology, fire chemistry, safety and first aid, health, and wellness, as well as several investigative disciplines. The practical skills and team exercises were conducted in and around vehicles, structures, humans, equipment, and fire scenes to hone Deacon’s scent discrimination skills.

Deacon is now proficient in detecting specific classifications of ignitable liquids and has performed over 5,000 repetitions for odor recognition and detection during training.

K9 Deacon will join the agency’s other accelerant and explosive detection canine teams assigned to the Special Operations Section and respond across Maryland. With six teams, the Office of the State Fire Marshal is honored and privileged to have the largest partnership of ATF-trained canine teams in the country.

“I am very proud that the ATF has allowed the Office of the State Fire Marshal to be partners in their Accelerant Detection Canine program for nearly 25 years,” stated State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci. “We are dedicated to assisting ATF whenever they call, and this long-standing partnership is proof. I have an even greater sense of pride for Senior Deputy Thomas and all of our handlers and their families who dedicate themselves to working and training with their canine partners seven days a week.”

(L-R) Deputy Assistant Director of Field Operations & Programs – Timothy Jones, S/DSFM Jeff Thomas, State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci, Assistant Special Agent In Charge L.C. Cheeks

(L-R) S/DSFM Oliver Alkire, DCFM-K9 Commander John Nelson, S/DSFM Jeff Thomas & K9 Deacon, SFM Brian S. Geraci, DSFM Tim McDonald, S/DSFM Chris McIntyre