Canine Officer Dies In Fire

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Update 4:26 p.m. – Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith said a memorial service will be planned for canine officer Ryder, but no details are available.

A beloved member of the Athens County Sheriff’s Office, canine Ryder, lost his life in a house fire Thursday afternoon.

Ryder joined the sheriff’s office in July of 2013. He worked alongside his handler and partner, Deputy John Kulchar. Ryder was four years old.

Fire departments were toned to Kulchar’s residence on Luhrig Road near Athens around 12:45 p.m. Upon arrival, the doublewide trailer home was engulfed in flames.

Multiple fire departments responded to the scene including The Plains, Waterloo, Albany, Chauncey, Richland Area and Athens. Personnel from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Athens Police Department also arrived as did deputies with the sheriff’s office.

According to Sheriff Rodney Smith, emergency officials tried to kick down the front door but the flames and heat ultimately turned them away.

Ryder, a Belgian Malinois, was unable to escape the home. Kulchar was not home at the time.

Ryder’s body was taken from the scene with an American flag draped across him.

Ryder came to the office from France. He was trained in narcotics targeting, handler protection, tracking and other patrol duties. The canine was part of numerous drug confiscations and investigations in his time with the sheriff’s office.

Kulchar and Ryder took over the canine division after John Morris was promoted to lieutenant and his canine Esko retired.

Little was known of the nature of the fire or its origins by The Messenger’s deadline. The Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office was on scene as well.