WASHINGTON, D.C., (WUSA) - After a 2,000-mile, 12-city cross-country tour honoring the four-legged and two-legged heroes who keep our communities safe, America's newest national monument - the first-ever National Fire Dog Monument - arrived to a hero's welcome of its own in Washington, D.C.
Officials representing America's firefighters, arson dog teams, and advocates greeted the seven-foot-high, 450-pound bronze statue of a firefighter with his arson dog in a reception at the American Humane Association headquarters.
The monument toured the country thanks to the sponsorship of State Farm, the only North American company which provides funding for the acquisition and training of arson dogs in the United States and Canada.
The National Fire Dog Monument was sculpted by 22-year-old Colorado firefighter Austin Weishel and pays tribute to the teamwork between humans and their canine companions in solving arson crimes. The sculpture is titled "From Ashes to Answers," and was commissioned by Jerry Means, an arson investigation agent with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.
Means' own arson dog, Sadie, received national attention last year as the winner of the 2011 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ in the category of Law Enforcement/Arson Dog and was a model for the sculpture.
Arson dogs - also known as accelerant detection canines - are trained to sniff out and indicate traces of petroleum products such as gasoline or lighter fluid that might have been used to start a fire. The traces are sampled and sent to a lab for identification. To become certified for the work, the dogs and their handlers undergo many weeks of professional training and must pass yearly testing to maintain their certification.
In addition to State Farm, the National Fire Dog Monument tour was sponsored by American Humane Association, which works to ensure the welfare, wellness and well-being of children and animals. The American Humane Association's annual Hero Dog Awards™ honor ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things.