Tampa Fire Rescue's search dog trains to find missing people stuck in rubble

Patron, a black lab, is trained to find victims
Tampa rescue dog
Posted at 10:26 PM, Jun 24, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — Firefighters and search dogs search the rubble for survivors at a condominium building that partially collapsed near Miami on Thursday morning.

Patron, a 5-year-old black lab, is a search dog for Tampa Fire Rescue. The dog trains to find missing people who are trapped under debris or rubble.

The canine's handler, Lt. Brian Smithey, said they respond to natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes. They may also be called to help search for survivors when a building collapses.

He has not been called to assist near Miami. He said crews already have search dogs there.

RELATED: Surfside building collapse updates: At least 1 dead, 99 unaccounted for

"Typically, we'll send the dogs where it's not safe for us to go as firefighters and rescuers, and what they will do is they will go to the area of the highest concentration of the scent. They have an active bark alert," said Lt. Smithey.

Lt. Smithey shared a video of a training exercise from Thursday. The dog runs over the rubble and when he locates a victim he begins to bark.

"They'll run right past us because they realize they can see us and they'll go to the area, hey, here's the scent coming from something I'm not seeing. Just a big game of hide-and-go-seek and they're taught that from the time that they're 10-12 weeks old when we start training with them," said Lt. Smithey.

Rescue dog demonstrates rescue mission

Lt. Smithey said search dogs may find victims quickly.

"We can send a dog up there and within minutes, 5-10 minutes, we can locate multiple people in a hurry."

The dog believes it is a game of hide-and-go-seek, but in reality, the dog is saving lives.

"Everything from Hurricane Charley, Katrina. We've had dogs from Tampa Fire Rescue go to the World Trade Center. We stay pretty active."