John Galaska and Tanya.
First came Moose, Kelly and Sparks. Now, meet Tanya. The 2 ½-year-old black Lab is the latest arson dog to join the accelerant detection K-9 unit of the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s Office. Based in Georgetown with her handler, John Galaska, Tanya is called to fire scenes to sniff out the cause of suspicious blazes. “She’s my work partner and family friend,” says Galaska, a deputy state fire marshal who lives in Laurel. The state fire marshal’s office is the law enforcement agency charged with leading fire and arson investigations throughout the state. From July 2013 to June of this year, the office investigated 608 fires, 195 were identified as criminal or suspicious and 54 arrests were made statewide. As of mid-September, Tanya and Galaska had handled 20 cases since they teamed up in May.
At the scene, Tanya takes the lead as they scour the area. If she discovers hydrocarbon residue (evidence of ignitable liquids), the finding is turned over to the investigator.“ The dog’s nose is so good,” Galaska says. “When she is pointing with her nose, she is pointing at the strongest odor.” The state fire marshal’s office received a grant from State Farm insurance company in 1997 that provided a K-9 dog, training and certification. After Sparks retired, Tanya became the fourth arson dog provided through the grant and the first based in Sussex County. Tanya and Galaska, a deputy fire marshal since 2003, attended a five-week training academy to earn their certification. Galaska is especially impressed with his partner’s work ethic. “She is wonderful,” he says.