Harris County Fire Marshal's Office mourning loss of longtime K-9 arson investigator 'Hunter'

March 11, 2013 5:19:45 PM PDT
Harris County Fire Marshal's Office is mourning the loss of one of their own. Hunter, their much-beloved K-9 arson investigator, died Monday.

Hunter was a 90-pound chocolate Labrador retriever with a nose trained to sniff out fire accelerants. He joined HCFMO in April 2000 thanks to a grant from State Farm Insurance. He was one of only 140 government service accelerant detection canines in the country.

In more than 12 years on the force, Hunter investigated 464 fires with HCFMO and 33 with other fire and police departments in the 13-county region. Using his keen sense of smell, Hunter was able to locate valuable evidence that assisted investigators in arresting and convicting 147 arsonists.

According to HCFMO, Hunter's accuracy was confirmed by two forensic laboratories with an 84 percent confirmation rate. He was even profiled on Good Morning America in 2007.

Hunter retired from fire scene investigation in August 2008, but he continued his service with active involvement in community outreach programs with his longtime partner, Senior Investigator Thomas Petty.

Over the next four years, Hunter and Petty presented a series of seven different fire and life safety programs to dozens of government agencies and hundreds of community groups, schools and day care facilities. The team racked up a career total of 689 presentations attended by more than 98,000 people.

Upon his retirement in December 2012, Hunter lived with the Petty family.

"He was simply the best partner a man could have," Petty said. "Working with Hunter was a unique privilege and I treasure all of our moments together."

Harris County Fire Marshal Mike Montgomery said Hunter was a part of the department family.

"His loyalty and long service to our agency is immeasurable. His ability to 'stop, drop and roll' and 'get low and go' taught many children in our community in a way that engaged interest outside of a normal classroom setting," Montgomery said. "Hunter touched a lot of lives and truly made a difference."

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