Hunter, the Harris County Fire Marshal’s beloved K-9 investigator, died on Monday, officials said.
A 90-pound chocolate Labrador Retriever, Hunter joined HCFMO in April 2000 thanks to a grant from State Farm Insurance. He was one of only 140 government service accelerant detection canines nationwide.
During his more than 12 years on the force, he investigated 464 fires with HCFMO and 33 other fire and police departments in the 13-county region.
Using his keen sense of smell, Hunter was able to locate valuable evidence that assisted investigators in arresting and convicting 147 arsonists, HCFMO said. His accuracy was confirmed by two forensic laboratories with an 84 percent confirmation rate. His exploits have been featured on several local television stations. In Feb. 2007, he was profiled on ABC News’ “Good Morning America”.
In August of 2008, Hunter was retired from fire scene investigation but continued his service with active involvement in numerous community outreach programs with his longtime partner, senior investigator Thomas Petty. For an additional 4 years, Hunter and Tom presented a series of seven different fire and life safety programs to dozens of government agencies and hundreds of community groups, schools and daycare facilities. The team racked up a career total of 689 presentations attended by more than 98,000 people.
“He was simply the best partner a man could have,” said Petty. “Working with Hunter was a unique privilege and I treasure all of our moments together.”
“Hunter was a part of our family," said Harris County Fire Marshal Mike Montgomery. "His loyalty and long service to our agency is immeasurable. His ability to 'stop drop and roll' and 'get low and go' taught many children in our community in a way that engaged interest outside of a normal classroom setting. Hunter touched a lot of lives and truly made a difference.”
Upon his retirement in December 2012, Hunter lived with the Petty family. HCFMO said he will be greatly missed.