The South Padre Island Fire Department next year will be adding a four-legged investigator to its arson team.

The City of South Padre Island will be acquiring an arson dog, through a scholarship granted in October from State Farm, that will begin its service in May 2018.

“This team will be used to investigate fire, but also provide community outreach programs and education seminars on fire prevention and safety,” Chief Doug Fowler said in a press release.

The State Farm Arson Dog Program was established in 1993 and has resulted in more than 380 dogs and their partners being put to work in 45 states, three Canadian provinces and in the District of Columbia, according to State Farm.

Accelerant detection canines, or arson dogs, are able to sniff out accelerants like gas and lighter fluid that may have been used to start fires. Canines and their handlers must complete 200 hours of training. State Farm provides financial aid for acquiring an arson dog and training it.

South Padre Island’s arson dog, which will be a labrador, will be the only accelerant detection canine in the lower Rio GrandeValley, according to the South Padre Island Fire Department. The canine will be able to locate accelerants at a fire scene in about 20 minutes, which would take a fire investigator hours to do.

However, according to the fire department, donations are needed because the program can’t run long term without continued grant funding and donations. In a press release, the SPI Fire Department said donations are needed to help pay for ongoing costs of dog food, routine veterinary services, training aids and training props.

The SPI Fire Department has set up a fundraising page seeking donations at

So far, the fire department has raised $1,850 out of its $6,000 goal.

By MARK REAGAN | Staff Writer