Wales’ first fire investigation dog has died in retirement, aged 18.
Golden Labrador Sam joined South Wales Fire and Rescue in 2003 and attended over 5,000 incidents during his five years of service.
He was trained to sniff out petrol, lighter fuel and other substances used in arson attacks.
Sam’s handler Matt Jones said he was “instrumental in finding evidence” and he was “extremely proud” to have worked with him.
One of the most-memorable cases to Mr Jones was Sam finding evidence that helped secure the convictions of two men who set fire to a bingo hall in Ely, Cardiff which killed a firefighter in 2004.
“He was more than just a dog as he was my partner and with me 24/7,” said Mr Jones.
After he retired, Sam went to live with Mr Jones’ parents in Rhymney, Caerphilly county.
“He was kept fit and my parents were certainly not shy in spoiling him.”
Mr Jones said he was overwhelmed by the messages of condolence which came in after he tweeted: “Goodbye old friend, sleep tight…stand easy FI dog Sam”.
Jennie Griffiths, head of Joint Fire Control, tweeted: “Sad news on the loss of Sam, the first fire investigation dog in Wales who helped solve many incidents”.
“At ease Sam, good boy!”
Sammy the spaniel had filled Sam’s heat protection boots and was equally successful.
He was retired at the start of 2013 which coincided with Mr Jones’ promotion to group manager. Since then the service has not had its own fire investigation dog.
In fact, Mr Jones said no fire service in Wales has its own fire investigation dog, they just use dogs from across the border when needed.
He said there were other dogs, known as urban rescue dogs, which have a different role.
“While there have been advancements in technology, there will always be a role for working dogs in the service,” said Mr Jones.
“Fortunately they are now an asset we can share.”