RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond firefighters make an addition to their uniforms as they remember a friend who died. Many firefighters are wearing black stripes over their badges to honor the memory of a beloved member of their team.
"Just the fact that she's not with me anymore, I'm not going to lie, it's a little bit painful, it hurts," said Fire Captain Mike Martin.
Martin is emotional about the passing of his dog Bailey, who he says was a kind and gentle spirit. The accelerant dog, who died earlier this week, served Richmond and surrounding counties for 12 years before retiring this summer. She was Captain Martin's partner and best friend.
Martin says, "for almost half of my career, I've had this dog right beside me, everyday, bad weather or good."
Bailey was the first and only accelerant K-9 in this region for many years, paving the way for other departments to see the value of a dog's nose in fire investigations. Bailey helped out with hundreds of fires all across Central Virginia.
Both Chesterfield and Hanover now have accelerant dogs, and in Richmond Bailey's replacement, Three-year-old black lab, Ellie, is now on the job. She is trained to sniff out flammable liquids and can save time and money.
Martin says, "it cuts down on the time of an investigator on a scene; it cuts down on the amount of work an investigator has to do. It cuts down on the amount of money that the state has to spend analyzing these samples, and it gets you results a whole lot quicker."
Dogs like Bailey and now Ellie also help spread positive fire safety messages in the community. They often visit places like children's hospitals.
Martin says, "you let them come in and see the nice dog and then you can grab them with 'Do you know how to check a smoke detector? Do you have an escape plan at home? Do you know how to stop drop and roll?' -- which she was able to do, so we were able to get that fire safety message across."
There's a facebook page dedicated to accelerant detection dogs and their handlers.