RANCHO CUCAMONGA - Before his death in October, Denali was instrumental to a number of arson investigations.

To honor his service, the Rancho Cucamonga Fire District held a public memorial for the yellow Labrador retreiver on Saturday.

Denali's ashes were placed near his service jacket and his badge at the fire district's Jersey Station.

A plaque with Denali's portrait will soon be hung on the fire district's "legends" wall of fame at the station.

A replica of the plaque was unveiled at the ceremony.

Denali served the department for several years before he died. His specialty was finding tell-tale signs of flammable liquids for arson investigators.

Susan De Antonio, a former arson investigator for the Rancho Cucamonga Fire District, remembers her dog Denali, who served as an arson investigation dog
Susan De Antonio, a former arson investigator for the Rancho Cucamonga Fire District, remembers her dog Denali, who served as an arson investigation dog for several years before passing away in October. (Neil Nisperos/Staff)

He was the third of three accelerant-sniffing dogs owned and cared for by longtime Rancho Cucamonga arson investigator Susan De Antonio, who along with Denali, retired in 2009.

Denali died in October last year after complications from megaesophagus, a condition in which food enters into the lungs, De Antonio said.

Over the course of his career, Denali investigated dozens of fires in Rancho Cucamonga, and mutual aid fire scenes in the surrounding Inland Empire region. In total, he investigated over $9 million in losses.

"This is truly the end of a very important era," De Antonio said. "A young person might visit the station one day, and might want to be interested in prosecuting and investigating arson," De Antonio said. "They might say, `I heard a long time ago, dogs used to be used for this.' Hopefully we'll get a canine team again."

De Antonio adopted Denali from Guide Dogs of America, when he was two. Denali was the last of three flammable liquid-sniffing dogs used by the department during investigations in the past decade. Two labs, Newby and Gator, also served the district.

Rancho Cucamonga Fire District chief Mike Bell said Denali and Susan offered much more to the community in addition to their work helping prosecute suspected arsonists.

Denali, a yellow Labrador Retriever who passed away last October, was honored Jan. 26, 2013 by the Rancho Cucamonga Fire District for his work as an arson
Denali, a yellow Labrador Retriever who passed away last October, was honored Jan. 26, 2013 by the Rancho Cucamonga Fire District for his work as an arson investigation dog. (Photo courtesy the Rancho Cucamonga Fire District)
Susan would bring Denali to libraries to help teach fire prevention and safety to children.

"He and Susan were much more viable to the community in the way that they taught people about fire prevention," Bell said. "It was just so amazing how she was able to use the dogs in so many ways to touch lives in our community."


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