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Latest News: Sowell officially sworn in as new arson accelerant detection canine

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – The newest investigative member of the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS) is accelerant-detection canine, Sowell. Sowell is a two year-old black Labrador. He and his handler, Lieutenant Craig Matthews of the Office of the Fire Marshal, completed a five-week accelerant-detection school sponsored by State Farm Insurance®. Sowell was officially sworn in and badged today. During the event, Lieutenant Matthews provided a demonstration showcasing Sowell’s abilities.

“As a dog owner, I especially appreciate the value of our canine friends! Sowell will be a special asset to our Fire and Rescue family and we’re very happy to have our new team member working to keep us safe,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “From detecting crime to helping with community outreach, Sowell will use his talents to make Howard County a better place for all. Thank you to State Farm for your sponsorship and to everyone at our Department of Fire and Rescue Services for your continued partnership and dedication.”

Together, Lt. Matthews and Sowell are required to respond to a minimum of 50 fires a year, where the cause of the fire is suspicious or undetermined. Because there are only a handful of accelerant-detection canines teams in the region, Howard County’s team may be requested to respond to fire scenes in Baltimore, Washington DC and as far away as Western Maryland.

“We are very fortunate to welcome Sowell into our fire service family,” said Fire Chief Christine M. Uhlhorn. “While Sowell will save time and resources investigating suspicious fires, he and Lt. Matthews will also provide community outreach and educational sessions on fire prevention and safety.” State Farm® has been a sponsor of the Arson Dog Program since 1993. The program awarded HCDFRS with a scholarship to cover the costs of the training and veterinarian visits. Sowell is one of the more than 300 arson dog teams in Canada and the United States. Sowell is the fourth dog to be awarded to Howard County. Jet, the Department’s most recent accelerantdetection canine, will retire alongside his handler, Lieutenant Carl Saunders later this year.

“Arson is a very serious problem as each year hundreds of lives are lost and millions of dollars in property damage occurs as a result of arson”, says Dwayne Redd, State Farm Public Affairs Specialist. “State Farm believes it is important that law enforcement officials have every tool possible to combat this costly, sometimes deadly crime and the Arson Dog is the resource that can help fire investigators or law enforcement find evidence of an arson crime quickly.”

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