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Silver and Nothstein battle arson, together

The 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.

Nothstein from Lehighton said the process for Silver to become a member of the Bethlehem Police Department has been a project two and a half 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, recently retired 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.”

Last summer, Laubach told Nothstein 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 I was considered to get the arson dog for the City of Bethlehem is because almost six years ago the Bethlehem City Police and Fire departments recognized the need for the two to work more closely when it came to fire investigation.”

In September 2012, three police detectives and eight city firefighters took a two-week, 80-hour, Certified Fire Investigators Course.

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

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.”

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.”

When Silver has downtime, she likes to play with her sister Abby, a 7-1/2 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.”

PRESS PHOTO BY TERRY AHNERBethlehem Police Department Detective Doug Nothstein is shown with Silver, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever arson dog.