PORTAGE | In the last three years, Bosco's nose has taken him all across the northern part of Indiana.
The Portage Fire Department's only K-9 member and his handler, firefighter Jeremy Himan, have been called to about 50 cases from Mishawaka to Lake County, whenever officials suspect a fire has a suspicious origin.
"Several years ago, there were a rash of arson fires," Himan said.
At that time, the only accelerant-sniffing dog was in Lake County.
Then Himan found Bosco, a Labrador that had been rescued from his owner. He was trained by the New York State Academy of Fire Science.
Bosco was free, but the city paid less than $1,000 to the academy for Bosco's training and other costs, Himan said. Veterinary services have been donated, and the department pays for training and certification costs. Himan pays for Bosco's food.
He's one of only four municipal accelerant-sniffing dogs in the state.
"Just having the K-9 in the city brings awareness to arson," Himan said.
Bosco also serves as a deterrent to the crime, he said.
Since joining the department, Bosco was used in a murder investigation case in Cedar Lake in 2012, residential arsons in Shorewood Forest and Westville and an attempted murder case in Mishawaka.
Calling Bosco into an investigation often expedites cases and eliminates guess work on the part of investigators, Himan said.
The department recently received a donated, used vehicle from the Porter Fire Department and plans to turn it into a unit for the investigation team and Bosco.
The vehicle was outfitted with a cage to provide safety in Bosco's transport, and the Portage department is raising money to install a heat-detection system.
The system, which would cost about $1,000, monitors the temperature inside the vehicle and would alert Himan through a wireless pager if the temperature became dangerously warm for the dog.
Anyone who would like to donate can send a check to the Fire Department Investigation gift fund, 3401 Swanson Road, Portage, IN 46368.