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Dogs are part of the fire team

May 31, 2008 |  1:20 pm

fire dogsIt used to be that the firehouse dog was a pet, a companion for the firefighters, a nice PR touch for the public. No more. Now dogs are a working part of the fire team.

And so on Saturday, Icon and Hattie, fresh from training and testing to Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency standards, reported for duty as disaster search dogs for the El Cajon Fire Department. (Their handlers got the same training and testing.)

The two Labradors are prepared to search through rubble for trapped victims. They can crawl through tunnels, walk up and down ladders and stay stable on wet or wobbly surfaces. They can work with a handler or off-leash.

Technology is great, but nothing can match a trained dog's nose and instincts, says El Cajon Fire Chief Mike Scott. Icon and Hattie are part of a program involving the El Cajon FD and the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: From left, Fire Capt. Steve Swaney, Icon, Hattie and Engineer Marco Maldonado. Credit: El Cajon Fire Department

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