Woof, woof: Sarawak Bomba’s K9 to spring into action soon

Labrador dogs on a Search and Rescue-Cavader exercise. — Photo courtesy of Bomba K9 unit

KUCHING, June 4: Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department’s (Bomba) first canine detection unit, or K9, is set to begin operations sometime this month.

The United Kingdom (UK) trained dogs comprises four English Springer Spaniels (named Wilf, Sue, Bella and Cliff), a Border Collie named Daisy, and a Labrador named Bailey.

Bomba Sabah will be getting six of these dogs, too.

An English Springer spaniel sniffs for clues at the site of a fire investigation. — Photo courtesy of Bomba K9 unit

Acquired from Lincoln in the UK, the dogs are each about 18-months-old, and they are now in ‘transit’ at Old Klang Road in Kuala Lumpur, together with their six handlers.

In Sarawak, these six canines will be divided into three disciplines: fire investigation, wilderness, and cadaver.

The fire investigation discipline serves to detect the cause of fire, particularly in arson cases.

The wilderness discipline is meant to track victims in the forest, while the cadaver discipline serves to track dead victims either on land or collapsed building or in rivers and lakes.

Labrador and border collie dogs on a Search and Rescue-Wilderness exercise. — Photo courtesy of Bomba K9 unit.

State Bomba director Nor Hisham Mohammad said the K9 unit would be stationed in Serian for deployment across the state.

K9 was supposed to begin operation in April this year, but it was delayed due to the whole procurement process.

“The dogs will help in search-and-rescue operations, fire investigations as well as rescue people trapped in collapsed buildings. They are extremely well trained for the tasks they are supposed to do,” said Nor Hisham said.

Sarawak needed a K9 unit, he added, because there had been many cases of missing persons, not only on land but also in waters.

State K9 person-in-charge Dominic Girai (left) with one of the handlers Peter Huang.

Nor Hisham said each one of the dogs had their own capabilities.

“Based on worldwide research, the breed is identified based on their tasks and docility while working with helicopters and in tropical areas and terrains.”

DayakDaily’s recent trip to the base in Serian revealed that the unit was ready for the canines. The whole area was brightly painted in red, symbolising the department’s colour.

Each dog will have their own cage, complete with fans, and their own place to bathe, urinate and defecate.

The canine enclosure area in Serian.

The department’s K9 person-in-charge, Supt Donny Chap, said for fire investigation, they would use the English Springer Spaniels breed.

“They can sniff out accelerants or substances used to start fires. Besides, they are really fast and physically small in size, making it easier for them to move around fire scenes,” said Donny.

K9 person-in-charge Fire Supt Donny Chap

The Labradors are large, strong and have more stamina. They are very good for detection processes.

Being half-breed with the wolf family, Border Collies have a highly developed sense of smell, thus making them an excellent choice in a jungle environment.

While waiting for their call-of-duty in Sarawak, the dogs’ training programme includes preparing them for various scenarios, such as tracking and detection outdoors, and being transported in boats and helicopters.

Photos courtesy of the Bomba K9 unit. — DayakDaily