Fire stations get pet oxygen masks

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by MaryBeth Rowell/For The Lancaster News


Saving the lives of pets in fires has become easier for Lancaster firefighters with the donation of pet oxygen masks from Invisible Fence in the Carolinas.
The company donated 56 mask kits to fire stations in the Carolinas, including all 19 Lancaster County fire stations, this summer.
“I am glad Invisible Fence decided to do this, it’s a wonderful thing,” said Patrick Helms, fire chief at Heath Springs Fire Department. “It gives us one more tool in the tool box that we didn’t have before.”
An estimated 40,000 to 150,000 pets die every year in fires, mostly due to the inhalation of smoke. More than 500,000 pets are affected by home fires annually. This was not something firefighters were equipped to handle until now. All they had before were masks for humans, which they tried to use on pets when necessary.
“Clearly, our faces and dogs’ faces are made differently. These masks are made for animals, to fit them,” Helms said. “Any breath that they take, they get a snout full of oxygen.”
Helms said pets can be very resilient and sometimes all they need is a little push or boost and these masks are perfect for that.
Invisible Fence’s goal is pet protection. Its commitment to pet safety extends beyond electronic pet containment by funding deserving projects to help save the lives of pets. A few years ago, it started Project Breathe in an effort to provide all fire departments and rescue units with pet oxygen masks.
With the kits costing anywhere from $75 to $125 each, Helms said this is a great help to the county fire departments and something that has been needed for a long time. The kits come with different size masks so they can accommodate  a wide array of animals of all different sizes. Helms said the masks can be used on any animal with a snout.
Lancaster resident Tina Phillips knows how it feels to lose pets in a fire. She had a house fire in February and, while nobody was at home, her pets were in the house. Of her several indoor dogs, including a pregnant Chihuahua, all that survived was a rabbit that was on the opposite side of the house from the fire and another Chihuahua, Cha-Chi.
Cha-Chi was saved with a child oxygen mask because the station did not have the pet masks yet. Phillips is grateful for the members of the Heath Springs Fire Department for taking the time to save her pets.
“It hurt to lose the house, but all I could think about afterward was my dogs,”  Phillips said. “My dogs are like my family members – they’re my kids.”
She thinks the new pet mask kits are “awesome.”
Helms recognizes that, to a lot of people, pets are their children and said firefighters are trained to protect people, pets and livestock, in that order. Their goal is to get them out, if possible.
“Things are changing in our world,” Helms said. “This is just one step to a more caring, loving society.”