Canine partner perishes in patrol car fire

The Nevada Fire Marshal's Office was investigating the cause of a fire that destroyed a Douglas County sheriff deputy's patrol car early Friday, claiming the life of his canine partner, Jon-Jon.

The 5-year-old Labrador retriever perished at 1:40 a.m. Friday in the fire that broke out while the dog's trainer and partner, Deputy Rick Koontz, was investigating an intrusion alarm in the Meridian Business Park in Minden.

Sheriff Ron Pierini said officials believed the cause was a mechanical problem.

The fire broke out under the hood of the 2004 model, engulfing the vehicle in flames within minutes.

Pierini said the car was a total loss and estimated damage at $30,000 to replace the vehicle which was outfitted to accommodate Koontz and his canine partner.

When Koontz discovered the vehicle fire, he tried to open the rear door to allow the dog to escape, but the door would not operate due to the heat.

Koontz smashed out a rear window, but the dog had died.

Officials at the fire said the Jon-Jon probably died of smoke inhalation.

"He is very, very upset," Pierini said of Koontz. "He's reliving every minute of the fire, but it was in full flames. There was nothing anyone could do."

Pierini said Jon-Jon made a significant impact in drug enforcement as well as being a popular representative of the sheriff's department.

"Our two narcotics dogs go to the schools and do unannounced searches. The younger kids at the elementary schools really enjoy seeing the dogs. They make a good liaison with officers and law enforcement to students."

Pierini said the specially-trained dogs cost $5,000-$7,000, all funded through private donations.

"A lot of effort and energy goes into the program," Pierini said. "The program has been successful with community support since 1994."

Pierini said Jon-Jon will be honored at 3 p.m. Feb. 27 at a community ceremony to recognize deputies Erik Eissinger and Dan Nelson who were wounded by gunfire Dec. 4 in a shoot-out at a Stateline casino.

Both deputies have returned to work.

"The deputies will be receiving valor awards, our highest honor," Pierini said. "And Jon-Jon will be recognized."


Anyone interested in supporting the Douglas County Sheriff Office fund that supports the canine patrol may make donations to: DCSO Canine Fund, c/o Douglas County Sheriff's Office, PO Box 218, Minden, 89423, or drop by the sheriff's office in the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 1625 Eighth St., Minden.


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