Enquirer photo/Lauren Jackson Max, a belgian malinois, is trained to detect accelerants in burned structures.

Accelerant detection dog makes debut in Hartselle

Weighing in around 70 pounds and being just over a year old, Max, a Belgian Malinois has an important job in the community. A friendly dog that loves to be pet, his puppy like behavior becomes all business with a single command, his attention changing to detecting accelerants. 

For several months Max and his owner, Johnny Crumpton, could be found inside the Hartselle Lowe’s painstakingly training for 10-12 hours every week. Now having passed his test to become an accelerant detection dog, Max and Crumpton work in the community and surrounding areas to help with arson investigations.  

Enquirer photo/Lauren Jackson
Max, an accelerant detection dog, participates in a demonstration at Hartselle Lowe’s to show how he indicates the presence of an accelerant.

“He’s been training for about seven months and can pick up about 12 different accelerants or variances of accelerants. What we did was we started out training him with just gasoline and then we just gradually continued to add more and more,” Crumpton said. 

As early as eight weeks old, Max began his training process. Each week the pair would go to Lowe’s to train, practicing to work around distractions and people.

“They have been just extremely benevolent and just as kind as they can be to us. I don’t think his training could have been completed without the assistance of the Lowe’s corporation. The store manager here, Darwan, just really made us feel at home and welcome. Everything that we needed to do with having access he didn’t mind. They really have gotten on board with us and made sure that they have got everything that we needed,” Crumpton said. 

Enquirer photo/Lauren Jackson
Johnny Crumpton and Max present Lowe’s store manager, Darwan Kerr, a plaque of appreciation for allowing them to train there.

Now that he is trained and has passed his test, Max works with Crumpton in Hartselle and surrounding counties to investigate fires. According to Crumpton, he is one of only three accelerant detection dogs in the state and the only one north of Birmingham in the state. Being a volunteer firefighter and having 27 years of experience in fire service himself, Crumpton said he now helps out when needed with Max. 

“I volunteer here as a volunteer reserve firefighter here with Hartselle. What I do here with Hartselle is provide the dog. I have lived in Hartselle for two years, and do fire investigation work as well as fire service work. I am also a paramedic. Max, as far as his purpose in the future, I will be using him for jurisdiction work with agencies. I will also be working him in some private side work when I work with him for insurance companies and things of that nature,” Crumpton said. 

Enquirer photo/Lauren Jackson
Johnny Crumpton stands with Max, the first dog he has trained as an accelerant dog.

Max will also serve another important job in the community in the future. Crumpton and Max will be going into Hartselle City Schools to teach fire safety to students. To help demonstrate the importance of fire safety, Max knows tricks like stop, drop and roll and how to crawl on his belly under ‘smoke’. 

Crumpton says he also hopes to see the instances of arson decrease just by having Max in the community. 

“One thing that actually does happen in the community, once the word gets out that you have something available like this, generally your arson incidents will decrease. If you have people that are nefarious in their heart and want to cause damage and problems or hurt and harm somebody and they realize that now there is another layer of protection that can possibly identify something of that nature, then it causes a reduction. The City of Birmingham had a dog and it decreased the instance of arson within their city limits. Because of what he does, it deters the instances of malicious arson,” Crumpton said.

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