Arson Ruled Out in Fire That Claimed Life of K9

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Update 4:07 p.m.: A memorial service has been scheduled for April 15 at 1 p.m. at Christ Community Wesleyan Church in Albany. No graveside services will be held.

Though the cause is still undetermined in a fire that claimed the life of the Athens County Sheriff’s Office’s canine officer, one potential cause was ruled out by investigators.

“It’s under investigation, but (the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office and The Plains Volunteer Fire Department) have ruled out arson,” said Randy Williams, of The Plains VFD.

The fire occurred at about 12:45 p.m. Thursday on Luhrig Road, at the residence of Athens County Sheriff’s Office Deputy John Kulchar. Canine officer Ryder and another dog, Bane, were inside the home when it became fully involved, and were not able to escape. Kulchar was not home at the time of the fire.

A spokesperson for the fire marshal’s office said two investigators came to the scene on Thursday and would return to continue their investigation on Friday.

Ryder’s body was transported from the scene in a carrier draped with an American flag, and the sheriff’s office flag is being flown at half-staff.

A Belgian Malinois who joined the sheriff’s office in 2013, Ryder was trained in narcotics targeting, handler protection, tracking and other patrol duties.

Several area agencies expressed their condolences for the loss of Ryder in posts on social media.

“Deputy Kulchar not only lost his partner in this tragic fire but also lost a second dog, Bane, his residence and all of his personal belongings,” a post on the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page stated. “Deputy (Kulchar) you will be in our thoughts through this tough time.”

The Albany Police Department posted memories of parades with Ryder and said the canine was “a leaner, looking for a back rub or head pat.”

“Some may see a police canine as just a tool to combat crime,” Chief Robert Deardorff in a post on the department’s Facebook page. “In the police community, a canine is more than just a tool. He is your partner, day in and day out, he goes home with you, shares your couch, your bed, and most importantly, your heart.”