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DOG SHOWS DEFT SKILL IN SNIFFING ARSON FIRES

 DOG SHOWS DEFT SKILL IN SNIFFING ARSON FIRES
 COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Nationwide Insurance is


going to the dogs to fight arson claims.
 And for Nationwide claims investigator Robert Gartner, that's a big relief. He no longer has to get down on his hands and knees at fire scenes to sniff for suspicious odors.
 Gartner relies on Pyra, a 20-month-old female Labrador retriever who is the latest to be enlisted by Nationwide Insurance in its intensified fight against insurance claims fraud. Pyra is trained to sniff for hydrocarbons, an ingredient of flammable liquids that arsonists often use to accelerate fires.
 "She's been to about 15 fires and she's been getting some good hits that the testing lab has confirmed," said Gartner, who is based in Parma, Ohio. Pyra sniffs away and leads Gartner to materials that the dog believes contain hydrocarbons. "Without Pyra, you'd have to get down on your hands and knees and just sniff around. It's hit-and-miss and it's expensive to send samples to the lab," he said. But with Pyra, it's relatively easy pickings to uncover materials typically used to start fires.
 Gartner, a 16-year Nationwide Insurance veteran, and Pyra recently completed a certified accelerant dog training course. As a result, Nationwide Insurance becomes the first major insurance company in the country to have a certified K-9 accelerant team. Nationwide paid some $8,000 for the training and pays for Pyra's upkeep. She lives with the Gartner family.
 Gartner is a member of Nationwide's Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which investigates suspicious and fraudulent insurance claims. He adopted Pyra last year from a Cleveland animal shelter. Pyra is being used by Nationwide mainly to investigate suspicious fires in northeastern Ohio and in West Virginia. She'll be available to assist other company claims investigators, the Ohio State Fire Marshal's Office and area fire departments.
 Gartner objects to Pyra being called an "arson" dog. "Her job is to detect if an accelerant is present. It's for investigators to determine whether arson was the cause. It could be that the accelerant came from a spill near a family's kerosene heater," he said, in explaining the distinction.
 But, he doesn't mind Pyra being called a "donut detection" dog. Gartner's office partner once put a half-eaten donut into a trash basket. Pyra noticed it and later helped herself to breakfast. "Now the first thing she does every morning when she comes into the office is sniff that trash can," Gartner said.
 Gartner, a volunteer fireman for 29 years, is president and commanding officer of the Geauga County Fire Investigation Unit and a member of the Montville, Ohio, Volunteer Fire Department.
 -0- 8/13/92
 /CONTACT: Lou Fabro, 614-249-6341; Jeff Botti, 614-249-6339, or Bob Sohovich, 614-249-6356; all of Nationwide Insurance/ CO: Nationwide Insurance ST: Ohio IN: INS SU:


KK -- CLFNS1 -- 9440 08/13/92 07:51 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Aug 13, 1992
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