HILO — Hawaii’s first certified arson dog, Kaimi, has died at the home of his handler Robert Perreira, the acting fire chief of the Hawaii Fire Department.
The Labrador and golden retriever mix died Dec. 12 at the age of 13. He stopped his duties at the fire department on New Year’s Eve 2019.
Arson dogs are used by fire departments across the country to sniff out microscopic levels of accelerants that may have been used to start a fire. They are able to help in determining whether arson was a factor.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, losing my buddy, my partner,” Perreira said Thursday. “He stayed home the last year because he was retired, and when I leave home, he’s making noise, because he knows I’m leaving.”
Kaimi had been rescued from a California shelter and placed into an arson K9 training program, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.
The canine was certified as Perreira’s partner on May 8, 2008, a week after the dog’s first birthday.
“We had a great career,” Perreira said. “We traveled all around. We worked on almost every island — Maui, Kauai, Honolulu.”
Kaimi was the only arson dog in the state for an extended period. He worked to investigate the cause of the Marco Polo condominium fire in Honolulu that killed four people and injured 13 others in 2017. An investigation by the Hawaii Fire Department could not find a definitive cause for the fire.
“We worked a lot of fatal fires,” Perreira said. “A lot of times, it was just to rule out any foul play. And that was one of the reasons why we got him. We noticed that a high percentage of our fires were coming back undetermined, but we knew, just by hunch, that these fires were actually being set. About 75% to 80% of our fires were undetermined, but with him in the mix, it brought that down to under 50%.”