Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service's search and rescue dog Spencer has gone from raw recruit to fully fledged four-legged firefighter after passing his exams with flying colours.

The three-year-old springer spaniel joined the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service in 2009 as a lively eight-month-old puppy. Now, after two years' specialist intensive training, the courageous canine and his handler Darren Booth have been awarded a certificate of competency, following an assessment by the Chief Fire Officers Association's National Fire and Rescue Resilience Team.

Darren and Spencer have gone through a training log which incorporates disciplines such as working at height, rope access, confined space and helicopter awareness.

Darren explained: "Grading involves a lot of discipline for your dog; both the dog and handler are assessed. Actions such as heel, sit, down, emergency stop and aggression are all part of the grading assessment. This is then followed by two scenario-based assessments which involve conducting searches on rubble piles.

"Springer Spaniels, like Labradors, are gundogs so they are particularly good at following commands and have an amazing sense of smell − 200 times the power of a human. Spencer took to the training regime extremely well and I am very proud that we have been awarded the certificate of competency."

Spencer has developed his acute sniffing skills to quickly locate live casualties who are injured or trapped in collapsed buildings. He is following in the heroic paw prints of other canine heroes used in incidents such as the Boscastle floods in Cornwall and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service's USAR team is one of 20 strategically-placed teams in the country which form the national response in the event of a large-scale emergency. The team is made up of 30 USAR technicians who are trained in using the specialist equipment, as well as three tactical advisers who can give specialist advice to incident commanders at major incidents.

Area Manager John Baines, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Spencer is a valuable asset to the USAR team. His acute sense of smell plays a crucial part in giving us the best chance of finding people alive in collapsed buildings as quickly as possible. Once Spencer has identified where someone is injured or trapped, he alerts the rest of the USAR team by barking. We can then use cameras and listening devices to find the exact location of the casualty before carrying out a specialist rescue. His skills complement the existing team who are highly trained to deal with such complex incidents."

John added: "Darren and Spencer are to be congratulated for all their hard work and dedication over the last two years. The training schedule has been highly intensive and we are delighted that it has paid off."

Spencer is based at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service with Darren, where he has trained alongside Dave, a three-year-old Labrador, but he is part of Tyne and Wear's USAR team on a 24-hour emergency call basis. If faced with a major emergency, he can be transported very quickly to wherever he is needed. 


Photo: Spencer, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service's search and rescue dog


Posted April 12th, 2012 at 0930 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: andrew.lynch@pavpub.com