Tahoe Douglas Fire adds K9 with explosive talents

Staff Report
Tracker is Tahoe Douglas Fire’s newest member of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.

ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. — With special events returning after the pandemic lockdown and a new events center being constructed in the district, Tahoe Douglas Fire has added a new canine team member that has explosive talents.

Tracker, a Hungarian Vizsla hunting dog, is the newest member of the district’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal team. He is being handled and cared for by Fire Inspector Kris Rowlett and his family.

Tracker is athletic, agile and light on his feet, and needs vigorous daily exercise and lots of personal attention. The breed is sometimes referred to as the “Velcro Vizsla” for its need to be in close proximity to his human companion, which Tracker frequently demonstrates by leaning his cheek into Rowlett’s leg, keeping close tabs on him and their surroundings, said a press release from the district.

Tahoe Douglas EOD originally began its canine program in 2016 with Gunner who was a brown Labrador rescue. When the handler and Gunner announced their retirement about a year ago, Rowlett began researching explosive detection canine programs.

With the return of special events post-COVID and the new events center under construction at Stateline, Fire Chief Scott Lindgren recognized the need to bring the program back to the district.

With the help of the Northern Nevada EDC teams, Rowlett located a handler and canine training program (Ford K9) which had a fully trained dog immediately available. Within days, he began the 120-hour handler program.

Rowlett and Tracker bonded quickly, a necessity for success as a team in the EDC world. A bonus is that the dog’s exercise and attention needs are easily met in the Rowlett household with four young boys.

Tracker can detect 14 explosive scents, commonly found in commercial and homemade explosives. Rowlett and Tracker are certified in California and Nevada and must participate in 16 hours of training every month to maintain that certification. Tracker is the fourth canine resource in the Northern Nevada Bomb Technicians Task Force joining the working dogs from the University of Nevada, Reno and Reno PD.

In Northern Nevada, EOD sweeps are requested for political, sporting and entertainment events where a large number of participants are expected to attend.

“With the growing threat of terrorist attacks, we are seeing a dramatic increase in EOD sweep requests,” said Tahoe Douglas Fire Captain/EOD Commander Will Darr. “Explosive detection canine resources are limited in our region during the political and special event seasons. Having an additional resource will allow us the chance to give back to the task force and continue to be responsive to our community needs.”

Tahoe Douglas Bomb Squad is one of the four FBI accredited bomb squads in Nevada – FEMA Type I classification. It is a joint effort between the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Per the cooperative agreement, the fire district serves as the fiscal agent for the Bomb Squad which is governed by a management board consisting of the fire chief, battalion chief, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and a sheriff’s captain.

Tahoe Douglas Fire is an “All Risk” department providing fire prevention, fire suppression, advanced life support, explosive ordnance disposal, forest fuels management and emergency rescue. These dedicated professionals respond to 2,000 emergency calls annually.

Source: Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District

Tahoe Douglas Fire Inspector Kris Rowlett with Tracker.

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