In a poignant moment for the firefighting community, Reqs, the black Labrador who holds the title of Britain’s longest-serving fire investigation dog, is retiring. For nearly 11 years, Reqs has served with the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, using his extraordinary olfactory senses to sniff out accelerants like petrol at fire scenes across the eastern and south-eastern regions of the UK.
Since joining the service in 2012 at just a year old, Reqs has been instrumental in about 500 investigations, working alongside fire investigators such as his handler Watch Commander Nikki Harvey. His exceptional contributions to major cases, including arson and murder, have resulted in more than 250 years of prison sentences for convicted criminals.
Reqs’ crucial role in investigations begins when a fire scene is deemed safe. Harvey first inspects the area to ensure there are no lingering hazards, such as smouldering embers or debris, before allowing Reqs to begin his work. The Labrador then uses his powerful sense of smell to identify possible accelerants, paving the way for human fire investigators to examine the site more closely. As a reward for his diligence, Reqs is given his favourite toy – a tennis ball.
Beyond his essential duties, Reqs has achieved an impressive online following, with over 10,000 social media followers, and has become a beloved figure among Hertfordshire residents through his participation in open days at the fire station and his countless visits to schools and clubs. His handler Nikki particularly highlights the therapeutic impact Reqs has had on children and families affected by fires.
After a successful career, Reqs will be hanging up his lead, but will continue to live with Nikki and attend community events. His successor, Loki, will take over his responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean Reqs will be absent, particularly if there’s an opportunity to sneak a few sausages from a barbecue.
Nikki shares her sentiments on Reqs’ retirement: “While it’s the end of an era in some ways, I’m so pleased he’ll still be around and part of our very special community, and I know that Loki will carry on doing a great job in his paw-steps.”
Over his career, Reqs has been involved in a number of notable incidents. These include locating a pet dog in the rubble at an explosion site in Clacton, Essex, aiding in several murder investigations, and providing vital evidence in an explosion and fire case at a block of flats. His keen senses proved instrumental in these cases, often detecting traces of accelerants that electronic equipment had failed to register, thereby changing the course of investigations.
Reqs’ noteworthy incidents:
- Located a pet dog in the rubble at the scene of an explosion he was investigating in Clacton, Essex, alerting the team to it so she could be pulled to safety
- Assisted with a murder investigation related to the incident in Leicester where petrol was ignited in the basement of a shop causing an explosion that killed 5 people.
- Assisted with a murder investigation whereby he was able to confirm that a murder victim’s vehicle had been deliberately set alight following their disappearance to try and cover up other evidence.
- Located and provided pivotal evidence at a murder investigation of a young woman whose body was set alight to try and cover up her murder.
- Attended an incident involving the false imprisonment of a family who subsequently had petrol poured over them and threats were made to kill them. The evidence that Reqs located at the scene was once again vital and helped to secure a custodial sentence of 10 years plus three years on license for the person that was found guilty of the offenses.
- Investigated an explosion and fire at a block of flats which resulted in one person losing their life. Initial suggestions were that it might have been a gas explosion, but Reqs attended the scene along with another FI dog and located traces of petrol in very small quantities, which electronic equipment had failed to register, proving that the fire had been started deliberately and changing the course of the investigation.