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Dogs added to hotel fire probe

October 21, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Jed and Ben, accelerant sniffing dogs from Erie, Pa., were the latest experts to join the investigation into the cause of the Washington House Hotel fire.

The English Labradors and their handler, Steven F. Reichert, went through the charred debris Wednesday looking for evidence that gasoline or some other flammable substance may have been used to start the fire.

Reichert, a full-time firefighter in Erie, would not comment on whether the dogs detected anything in the hotel.

There was nothing new to report in the investigation, borough police said later in the day.

Police have said there has been no determination about the cause of the fire, or whether it was accidental or arson. Authorities will continue investigating the scene today.

"I provide the service to the state police under contract," said Reichert, who owns K-9 Accelerant Detection.

"This one's the seasoned veteran," he said of 7-year-old Jed. Reichert and Jed demonstrated "prescenting," in which Reichert puts drops of different accelerants on objects outside the fire scene.

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On command, Jed, who is trained to detect different scents, found the chemicals, first on a small piece of debris and then on a crack in the sidewalk pavement, pointing his nose at the spots.

In addition to borough police and the dogs, Pennsylvania State Police and an investigator from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are involved in the investigation.

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