Hawaii’s First Arson Dog, Kaimi

Together with his handler, assistant fire chief Robert, Kaimi has helped the Hawaii Fire Department in nearly 300 cases!

Robert + Kaimi

In 2008, Kaimi was nationally certified as the first accelerant detection canine in the state of Hawaii. Along with his handler, assistant fire chief Robert, they’ve helped the Hawaii Fire Department in nearly 300 arson cases and are getting set to retire at the end of 2019.

"Arson dog’s noses can smell in parts per quintillion. I can’t even fathom that number"

Back in 2006, Robert had just started out in the fire investigation division. “I started doing research on different tools that a fire investigator has to detect the cause of a fire,” said Robert. He came across the State Farm Arson Dog program and got approved for a grant and an arson dog.

Kaimi Arson Detection

Across the Pacific Ocean, Kaimi, previously named Duke, was just seven months old when he was rescued from a shelter in California. A shelter worker took notice of his outgoing personality, constant energy and friendly disposition, and reached out to the local fire investigator, who in turn saw the dog’s training potential and contacted the State Farm Arson Dog Program. Kaimi was transported to a facility in Chicago for a few months of training and was then taken to Maine to complete the program’s final training portion where he was paired with Robert.

Robert and Kaimi completed five weeks of training before becoming a certified team for the County and State of Hawaii in May 2008. As the very first arson dog in the state, Robert wanted him to have a proper Hawaiian name, so he renamed him Kaimi which means “the seeker,” and “imi” which means “seek” is the command he gets when he’s at work.

As an arson dog, Kaimi has been trained to sniff out accelerants (gas, kerosene, lighter fluid, etc.) that may have been used to start a fire. “I think the most important part of it is his nose,” said Robert. “It’s better than a machine. Arson dog’s noses can smell in parts per quintillion. I can’t even fathom that number.”

At a fire scene, Kaimi has a superior ability to discriminate among scents and he can detect up to 60 ignitable liquids, even picking out traces of accelerant from rubble. He moves around nimbly, uses his nose to find a scent, and will point with his nose and sit down passively to alert Robert. “He’s done a great job. Every time they’ve sent a sample for analysis, it showed up positive whenever he showed a positive alert,” said Robert.

Not only do Robert and Kaimi investigate the causes of fires, but they also perform demonstrations at schools and community events promoting fire safety and fire prevention.

Kaimi and Robert have worked hundreds of fires across the Hawaiian Islands, finding evidence for local police departments. As a true Helping Hero, Kaimi will retire from service at the end of 2019 after serving the residents of Hawaii for 11 years. “It’s been a fun ride,” said Robert, who will continue to care for Kaimi along with his wife and six children.

Every October, the Petco Foundation supports the incredible work of service, therapy, and other working animals who save and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Donate today to support Helping Heroes like Kaimi.