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Lehighton man partners with arson dog

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    Bethlehem Police Department Detective Doug Nothstein is shown with Silver, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever arson dog who joined the Bethlehem Police Department. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app for a video. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS

Published August 17. 2018 12:11PM

he dog and the detective.

Or in this case, Silver and Doug Nothstein.

Silver is a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever arson dog.

Nothstein is a detective with the Bethlehem Police Department.

Together, they’ve forged quite the successful alliance since Silver became a member of the police department.

Silver joins police force

Nothstein, of Lehighton, said the process for Silver to become a member of the Bethlehem Police Department has been a project 2½ years in the making.

“After getting to watch Judge the arson dog in action a few times, I started to talk with his handler, Lee Laubach, from Allentown City Fire Department about his plans for when the team would retire,” Nothstein said. “Because of my relationship with the fire department, and my fire background and love of dogs, Lee felt I would be a great candidate for his replacement.”

Nothstein said that last summer, Laubach notified him about applying for a scholarship through State Farm Arson Dog program.

“Thankfully, I was awarded the scholarship, and this past April I joined in the 50th class to graduate the program,” he said. “The reason that I was considered to get the arson dog for the City of Bethlehem is because almost six years ago the Bethlehem City Police Department and Fire Department recognized the need for the two departments to work more closely when it came to fire investigation.”

Match made in heaven

Nothstein said that in September of 2012, three police detectives and eight city firefighters went through a two-week, 80-hour, Certified Fire Investigators Course.

Over the next few years, he said the CFIs worked several fire scenes together and made great improvements in cases being successfully investigated.

Nothstein said due to that success, in January 2016, Chief Mark DiLuzio recognized the importance of making this a full-time liaison position and created a detective position and attached it to the fire marshal’s office so they could work seamlessly with the fire marshal on all fire investigations.

“Having a 21-year volunteer firefighting background, already functioning as a deputy fire marshal since February 2014 by Fire Marshal Craig Baer, and already having my CFI, I was chosen for this position,” he said.

“Because of all this, it seemed I was the perfect fit for becoming the newest Arson K-9 handler in the Lehigh Valley.”

The detective

Nothstein, of Lehighton, has been with the Bethlehem Police Department for almost 14 years.

While that’s how he makes his living, firefighting is another passion that is near and dear to his heart.

As captain of the Lehighton Fire Department, Nothstein has been with the department for more than 20 years.

The dog

Nothstein explained Silver’s duties as an arson dog.

“Silver’s role during the investigation of the origin and cause of a fire is to aid fire investigators with searching the scene to locate where to take samples with a high probability of coming back positive from laboratories,” he said.

“Another role Silver plays is by going out to do demonstrations and ‘talk’ with people on fire safety and fire prevention.”

Nothstein said that when Silver has downtime, she likes to play with her sister Abby, a 7½-year-old black Labrador retriever.

“So far, things are going great with Silver,” he said. “Getting the opportunity to work with her has been a tremendous experience. Every day we build our bond a little stronger.”

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