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A special visitor comes to Stewart Elementary
Learn about Hansel the Arson Dog and his visit
Posted on 02/24/2020
Learn about Hansel the Arson Dog and his visit

Learning about community helpers took an interesting turn at Stewart Elementary on February 19. Kindergartners, first- and fourth graders met a very special visitor who works in our community every day.

Hansel the Arson Dog for Central Pierce Fire & Rescue came to demonstrate how he does his job. He brought his handler, Deputy Fire Marshall Chris Lorenz along with him to explain how they work together to get the job done.
Hansel at Stewart

Hansel can find a toothpick hidden on a football field with a single drop of accelerant on it, says Lorenz. His sense of smell is that good, and that’s why Hansel was chosen to become a federal officer working as an Arson Dog.

They didn’t just talk about how he does his job, Hansel showed them. And the students got to participate. With parent permission, six students were chosen to have a Q-tip with a trace amount of accelerant on it placed on their shoe while Hansel was in another room.

Hansel at StewartNext, three students at a time who had the Q-tips were randomly added to a line-up of about 15 students who all stood quietly. Lorenz brought Hansel out and led him down the line of students. One, two, three — as he quickly moved down the line, Hansel stopped and sat in front of each student who had the Q-tip attached to their shoe. And each time he was rewarded with food from his handler.

As they learned about Hansel, what it takes to become an Arson Dog, and how he does his job, the students had an opportunity to ask questions.

Hansel is 21 months old and weighs 83 pounds. He is required to maintain that weight within a few pounds. As an Arson Dog, Hansel lives with his trainer and is a part of the family. Where they go, he goes.

Hansel was originally bred to be a Seeing Eye Dog; however, he loves to chase leaves when the wind blows them, and that distraction led to the decision to place him in the Arson Dog Training Program in Virginia. He excelled in his training and Lorenz went to Virginia where they trained together before bringing him to Washington.

“He sniffs out fire,” says Lorenz. Hansel uses his sense of smell to search for accelerant. When he finds it, he is rewarded with dog food. He searches in all sorts of environments, including burned houses and buildings. Sometimes he is used to identify an arson suspect in a line-up.
Hansel and Lorenz

The training is continuous and extensive. He recently trained in one of the district’s surplus school buses while it was empty.  “We partner with local emergency response agencies, such as police and fire, in a variety of ways to help them train,” says Char Krause, Director of Students Services and School Safety.

Every year they return to the training facility in Virginia and go through extensive testing. “There are hundreds and hundreds of different types of them [accelerant] and he has to find every one of them. They test once a year and they must pass. If they miss one, they’re done,” says Lorenz.

And there were a few last questions for Hansel:

  • What is his favorite color? Dogs are color blind.
  • How fast can he run? Very fast.
  • How long does he run for? A long time.
  • Can he dig? We try not to let him dig.
  • Where does he sleep? He sleeps in his kennel at night, but sometimes he doesn’t like to get up in the morning…

Nancy French