National Fire Dog Monument Making Its Way to D.C.

A 38-year veteran of fire service, Bruce Abbott of the Bloomington Township Fire Department, has seen many works of arts dedicated to firemen.

The most impressive he has seen, though, was Sunday morning's National Fire Dog Monument on display at the State Farm Insurance Cos.' corporate headquarters in Bloomington.

"The best word to describe this is awesome and I have never seen the detail this one has," he said. "It seems so life-like. It's the best one I have ever seen."

The "From Ashes to Answers" monument, a sculpture of a firefighter looking down at his Labrador retriever, is in the middle of a 12-city, 2,000-mile tour that began in Denver and will reach its permanent home in Washington, D.C. on June 28.

The life-sized monument weighs 450 pounds and was created by Jerry Means, an arson investigator from Colorado.

The bronze statue was sculpted by Denver-area firefighter Austin Weishel and serves to acknowledge the work of certified accelerant-detecting arson dogs.

"The work that the dogs do really inspired me to create something where they can be recognized and so, four years ago, we started raising money," Means said.

"We raised over $100,000 and are bringing recognition to these dogs who are so important in finding out who or what is responsible for fires."

Means found Weishel, a 22-year-old, self-taught sculptor, who owns Honorable Sculptures Inc., near Denver. He spent more than 1,500 hours completing the project.

"It's something I enjoy doing and being a firefighter myself, I made sure I took the time and effort to get every detail exactly right," he said.

The tour is sponsored by State Farm and the American Humane Society.

"The response has been great so far and it has actually brought people to tears," said State Farm spokeswoman Heather Paul.

Several local residents stopped by Sunday for a first-hand look, including Dee Harms of Roanoke and her three grandchildren, Ally, Ryan and Riley Schumacher.

"It's great for the kids to see something like this and let them learn something new about dogs," she said. "It's a great display and very well done."

Also in Bloomington was Means' current arson dog, Sadie. Means used several children to demonstrate how Sadie has been trained to pick up accelerants on the clothing of potential suspects.

"Lots of times, the person responsible for starting the fire will stand around and watch," Means said. "You can't have firemen or police going around sniffing everyone's shoes for some transfer, but you can take a dog and a properly trained one will be able to find the suspects."

Copyright 2012 - The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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