Dogs Search for Victims and Cause of Grenfell Tower Fire

Wearing heat-proof booties to protect their feet, specially trained dogs have been dispatched in London’s Grenfell Tower to help locate victims and determine the cause of last week’s devastating fire that killed at least 79 people.

Because they’re smaller and weigh less than humans, urban search-and-rescue dogs with the London Fire Brigade (LFB) are able to access the more challenging areas of the charred 24-story building, especially the upper floors that sustained the most damage.

Trained sniffer dogs from the LFB’s fire investigation team are also at work inside the tower, trying to detect any ignitable substances, such as gasoline or lighter fluid, that may have sparked the fire.

Thanks to the amazing sense of smell dogs have — their noses have 300 million olfactory receptors while ours only have 6 million — these fire investigation dogs are more accurate than technology that’s been developed to detect ignitable substances. The dogs have helped improve the conviction rate against arsonists and, because they can find ignitable substances very quickly, they have helped reduce the length of time necessary to conduct on-scene investigations after a fire.

The best dogs for this job are those with a high play drive, according to the LFB. During training, they are rewarded with tennis balls whenever they detect ignitable substances in rooms, under stairs and in mailboxes. When they detect something, they wait beside it for their handlers.

While their job seems dangerous, no fire detection dogs in the UK have ever been injured, the LFB reports. They’re never sent into hot areas and always wear those very cute yet very essential booties that protect their feet from hot surfaces as well as sharp objects, such as shards of glass from broken windows.

When the dogs aren’t working, they live with their trainers. Their careers typically last about 10 years, with annual training refreshers, before they’re retired.

In October 2016, Roscoe, a springer spaniel and 11-year member of the LFB fire investigation team, was named the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Animal of the Year for his work sniffing out the causes of more than 600 fires around London.

“At the age of one year, Roscoe came to me to start training after being given up for rehoming by his previous owners,” his handler, Mick Boyle, said in a press release. “Immediately he hit the ground running.”

Roscoe, London Fire Brigade fire investigation dog

Roscoe and his handler, Mick Boyle.
Photo credit: London Fire Brigade

The dogs are probably going to be working at Grenfell Tower for at least a while. “I want to be realistic, we are likely to have crews working at the scene for many days to come,” said London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton at a June 15 press conference. “We do not yet know what caused the fire. We do not know where it started and we do not know why it spread in the way that it did. Investigations have started, but it is too soon to say any more.”

As a new session of Parliament opened on June 21, protestors took to the streets of London, demanding justice for the Grenfell Tower victims. During the session, UK Prime Minister Theresa May apologized for the government’s failure to provide support to survivors of the fire. She said emergency funds and housing will be provided to the survivors, and an independent public inquiry will be chaired by a judge. A criminal investigation of the fire is also underway.

Residents of Grenfell Tower had previously complained about safety issues, to no avail. To help prevent future tragedies, please sign this Care2 petition calling for a government review of fire safety in tower blocks.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

132 comments

Jack Y
Jack Yabout a year ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Yabout a year ago

thanks

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John J
John Jabout a year ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John Jabout a year ago

thanks for sharing

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Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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iloshechka A
iloshechka A1 years ago

many thanks

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David Daisy May Boldock

They reckon it will take until the end of the year to fully confirm how many casualties there were. On a side note though.

As horrendous as The Grenfell Tower fire was . I'm reading about it and apparently there are two hundred families who need to be re-housed. Now, I'm no Diane Abbott but there were one hundred and twenty flats in that block so can someone please tell me how that works. It's clearly obvious that this is a clear cut case of sub letting which in itself breaches all the rules of occupancy, not to mention health and safety. It's also clear that many of the people were here illegally as many seem to have vanished into thin air. Bear in mind this is only ONE BLOCK in ONE CITY. So it begs the question, how many more homes in the UK are harbouring illegal immigrants and clearly flouting all the rules?. The figure is going to be astronomical. It's time our authorities got off their arses and did their job.

And lame-duck-May is giving them immunity from prosecution. Get ready for more fires and several have already kicked off. May needs kicking off and get someone with balls to do the right thing. Great Britain is rapidly going down the 'Grate.'

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Arlene C
Arlene C1 years ago

Signé, merci Laura

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heather g
heather g1 years ago

I'm pleased they treat their sniffer dogs so well. On the international news, I heard that the sub-standard building cladding was supplied by an American firm. It was used extensively in London and some 50+ buildings now need to be retro-fitted.

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE1 years ago

Thank you to the fire fighters and these wonderful dogs.

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