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Gilbert's arson dog Zeta helping solve investigations

Posted at 4:03 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 13:04:43-04

Zeta is a two-and-a-half-year-old lab, and she loves people. When she's not working, she's usually visiting people in their offices at the Gilbert Fire Department.

But as soon as she arrives at the scene of a fire investigation and she smells smoke, it's time to work.

Zeta's job is to find the accelerant that might've been used to start a fire.

"She can go through a fire scene so much quicker than an investigator can, and she can get past all the smoke and go to the accelerant she is trained on," said David Zehring, fire investigator and Zeta's handler.

She's trained on six different types of ignitable liquids. And while she works for the Gilbert Fire Department, Zeta responds to investigations all over the state or wherever the ATF needs her.

"Automobile searching, open field searches, people searches, structural searches," said Zehring.

Zehring trains her twice a day, every day. That's because she eats when she finds the accelerant.

"Once she finds that, she gets a praise of being a good girl and then she gets her food."

Last year, they worked on more than 50 cases. Many of them were solved thanks to her nose.

Over the weekend, she helped arrest a man for allegedly setting a Mesa house on fire twice. She was able to detect accelerant on his hands and clothes.

Zeta also worked the arson investigation at the Phoenix Democratic Party Headquarters in July 2020.

In March 2020, she did a couple of searches for the massive Amazon facility fire in Goodyear.

"ATF's motto is 'trust your dog and their nose knows.' And we live by that. When she sits and I see those changes in behavior in her, I know that she’s on scent and I know that we’re going to be able to collect evidence that we need to get a positive sample," said Zehring.

Zeta will do the job for at least five years, 10 at most. When she's not working, she loves getting treats and lots of love.

"She's the most loved employee in our office," said Zehring.