Crime

K9 sniffed a fire at a Gulfport home and alerted his handler. ‘It was arson,’ chief says.

Fire Investigator Greg Marks is shown with his K9 Toggle, who detected the accelerants in a fired believed to be intentionally set on 20th Street on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.
Fire Investigator Greg Marks is shown with his K9 Toggle, who detected the accelerants in a fired believed to be intentionally set on 20th Street on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. Gulfport Fire Department

Toggle, a K9 trained to sniff for accelerants in arson investigations, took a run at a burning home and let his handler know something was wrong.

He detected the smell of a substance used to spread a fire and told his handler, Gulfport Fire Investigator Greg Marks, in a language the two understand, an official said.

“It was arson,” Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt said of the blaze at a house on 20th Street at 36th Avenue.

Fire investigators talked to several witnesses and it was suspicious from the beginning, Beyerstedt said.

“There were people in and out of the house shortly before the fire started, minutes before the fire,” he said. “The person who owned the home had been there and there were some domestic issues. Who was at home the second the fire started, I couldn’t tell you.”

Also, the fire appears to have been started on the outside of the house in the middle of the afternoon and “was in an advanced state when we arrived,” Beyerstedt said.

“It appears to be domestic-related,” he said.

A neighbor reported the fire at 4:40 p.m. Wednesday. Investigators have a person of interest.

Anyone with information can call the Gulfport Fire Department at 228-868-5950

Or give an anonymous tip by calling Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-877-787-5898.

Robin Fitzgerald, 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews
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