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Accelerant Detection K9 “Sky” Retires

March 18th, 2024 by WCBC Radio

For over seven years, Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Melissa Decker and her partner, K9 Sky, have been assisting fire investigators across Maryland and beyond in finding trace amounts of flammable liquids to help build cases against arsonists or to rule out their use so investigators can focus on other potential reasons for a fire. However, Sky is hanging up her badge, and the beloved accelerant detection canine officially retired today. 

Trained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), K9 Sky started in the "Puppy Behind Bars" program, where she lived with and was socialized by inmates who provided basic training to service dogs. The ATF procured Sky and assigned her to the Accelerant Detection Program. Together, Decker and Sky graduated from Class #117 in December 2016. Sky has worked alongside firefighters and investigators, responding to countless calls, assisting in investigations, and meeting what Decker estimates are thousands of people while working community and school events and public demonstrations across Maryland. S/DSFM Decker and Sky traveled regularly to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glyco, Georgia, where they assisted in training ATF agents during their academy.  

Known for their keen sense of smell and unwavering commitment to their work, accelerant detection canines like Sky have been instrumental in identifying accelerants such as gasoline, lighter fluid, kerosene, and even odorless solvents used in arson cases. Sky is a food-reward canine and has only been fed with Decker's hand tens of thousands of times. On Friday, Sky celebrated with a bowl of food, her first since joining the program. 

"As Sky enters retirement, everyone at the Office of the State Fire Marshal expresses our gratitude for Sky and S/DSFM Decker's commitment to keeping Maryland safe. We wish Sky a well-deserved restful retirement filled with treats, belly rubs, and endless playtime," stated Chief Deputy and Acting State Fire Marshal Jason M. Mowbray

Although she is now retired, Sky will soon have company. Starting tomorrow, Decker will travel to the ATF Canine Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia, for six weeks to work with a new partner. When the pair graduate, they will return to Maryland and be one of only 71 teams in the United States.

The OSFM exclusively partners only with ATF, and it has the most ATF-trained canines in the country, with four accelerant detection teams and two explosive detection teams.