Sniffing out Arson

Why we have a K-9 Investigative Unit.

Dogs. They’re more than just man’s best friend. They’re capable
hunters, trackers and excellent law enforcement officers. And for 25 years,
they’ve helped the West Virginia Division of Forestry’s Special Operations and
Enforcement Unit track down arsonists who’ve started forest fires.

Raisy and Boone make up the K-9 team of our Unit, but don’t
let these cute dogs fool you. They’re serious about their job. They work with
assistant state foresters and investigators Don Kelley and John Bird to sniff
out the cause of forests fires and even track down missing children and lost

wv arson dog in field posing with trainer

A forest fire scene can be thousands of acres in size and
filled with millions of smells at that are completely undetectable to the human
nose. Thankfully, a bloodhound’s nose is a million times more sensitive than a
human’s, which means their sniffers are one of the best tools our Investigative
Unit can use to find the cause of a forest fire.

Almost all forest fires are human caused. Because
bloodhounds are so good at detecting smells, they can track an arsonist from
the fire scene back to where they are. They’ve even tracked someone who started
a fire from their vehicle.

But these crime-fighting dogs are more than naturally gifted
sniffers. They’re highly trained and go through rigorous training each year so
the West Virginia Police Canine Association can certify their tracking skills.
The annual certifications are a big part of what makes the evidence the dogs
dig up stand up in courts of law.

west virginia ohcf dogs and trainers

And over the years, these dogs have proven themselves to be
some of the finest investigators on hundreds of cases. Their hard work has
helped the Special Operations and Enforcement Unit reduce the number of forest
fires and prevent new ones from happening. 
In 2017, Kelley and Raisy were named K-9 Team of the Year by the West
Virginia Police Canine Association. The Investigative Unit has even traveled to
assist law enforcement in other states, including California, Arizona and North

While there are many advancements in technology that can
help our team find the cause of forest fires and track down criminals, nothing
beats the keen sense of smell of a dog.

Want to learn more about our Investigative Unit or keep up
with Raisy and Boone? Follow @wvforestry on Facebook and Twitter.

I want to know more about...

Forest Legacy Program thumbnail

Forest Legacy Program

Stewardship thumbnail


Fall Foliage thumbnail

Fall Foliage

Managed Timberland Program thumbnail

Managed Timberland Program

Logging thumbnail


Industry Assistance thumbnail

Industry Assistance

Ginseng thumbnail


Planting Trees thumbnail

Planting Trees

News Releases thumbnail

News Releases

Project Learning Tree thumbnail

Project Learning Tree

Invasive Species thumbnail

Invasive Species

Conservation Education thumbnail

Conservation Education


The West Virginia Division of Forestry is committed to protecting, nurturing, sustaining, and promoting the wise utilization of our state’s forest resources.


Established in 1909, as a declaration of the state government for the need of forest protection and research, the West Virginia Division of Forestry protects and conserves the state’s forest resources.