Reading, PA -  The Reading City Fire Marshal's office has a new four-legged investigator.

Gracie and her handler, Lt. Trent Zulick, were introduced at City Hall Monday afternoon.

The 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever was acquired through a grant from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

There are two other ATF dogs in Pennsylvania: one in Allegheny County near Pittsburgh and one in Philadelphia.

"What she brings to the table is, for years in investigations we've been dependent on ourselves to determine where we are going to collect samples," Zulick said. "To get it right, we might take 10 or 20 samples."

By using Gracie, Zulick expects investigators will be able to collect fewer samples at a scene.

"She can get down to a 3- or 4-inch circular area and be pretty accurate," Zulick said. "We won't have to dig out a whole area."

Gracie started last Monday and has already investigated one fire. She sniffed around the scene of the three-alarm fire in the 300 block of Hollenbach Street, last week.

"We can remember literally kneeling down in a burned out building with our nose to the ground," said Jeremy Searfoss, fire marshal for Reading City. "There's no longer that guesswork."

Like police dogs, she will live with Zulick.

Searfoss said he was grateful for numerous people and other departments who helped welcome Gracie.

Reading police donated a vehicle for Gracie's transportation, and VCA Sinking Spring Animal Hospital has offered discounted care for the dog.

Officials estimated that training for Gracie and Zulick cost about $20,000, which was covered by the ATF grant.

Contact Jeremy Long: 610-371-5032 or jlong@readingeagle.com.