Contrary to an announcement by the New Hampshire governor and other officials, a nationally known Maine-based arson dog training program isn’t moving to New Hampshire, according to the program’s founder.

Paul Gallagher said he used a New Hampshire facility for the four-week April training class because a facility in Alfred that he used for 22 years was sold and he had to move. But Gallagher said he’s already arranged to use the Brunswick Fire Academy for future training starting in July.

“Basically, New Hampshire would love us to stay here, but we are a Maine-based program,” said Gallagher, a former state police trooper who runs the program and lives in Gray. “We will be coming back to Maine.”

Arson dogs are trained to sniff out minute traces of accelerants (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) at fire scenes to determine whether the fires were intentionally set.

Officials from New Hampshire and State Farm Insurance, which sponsors the program, held a news conference at noon Monday and put out news releases announcing the “relocation” of the program to New Hampshire.

“I thank State Farm for bringing this program to the Granite State,” Governor Maggie Hassan said in a release put out by State Farm. The press conference at the New Hampshire Fire Academy included officials from the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and the State Division of Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services.

The Associated Press ran a story about the announcement, which was picked up by some news outlets.

But Gallagher said the program won’t be leaving Maine.

“I think someone kind of overreacted a little bit,” said Gallagher, adding that he appreciated the temporary help from New Hampshire officials.

Gallagher said he will be finishing the current training program in the upcoming weeks, then bringing the class of arson dogs and their handlers to Maine to be formally certified at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

Reached Monday, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Safety said the program is currently in New Hampshire and he didn’t have information about future arson dog training locations.

“I’m not sure what the discrepency is. The program is relocated here for the time being,” said spokesman Michael Todd. A representative from State Farm did not return calls late Monday.

The program, which has graduated more than 350 arson dog teams since it was started in 1993, was established through the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, which certifies the teams after the 200-hour training program.

State Farm Insurance pays about $23,000 per team, for the dog, the initial certification and travel costs. The departments that the dogs work for pay for recertification, a three-day program that takes place three times a year in Maine, the Midwest and in the Southeastern U.S.

Gallagher said he runs two full training programs, with up to 12 teams each; and three re-certification programs each year.


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