DeKalb County Fire Department spokesman Norman Augustin said rescuing a pet from a fire-damaged home can be just what a resident needs to lift his other spirit after a devastating experience.
Each first responder vehicle used by the DeKalb County Fire Department is now equipped with oxygen masks not only for humans, but for pets as well.
“We have one on every piece of apparatus we have, and they were donated to us by a pet safety company,” Augustin said.
Although the masks aren’t yet a requirement, Augustin said they come in handy because sometimes pets are left behind during a fire. He said a pet that has stayed in a burning building requires treatment for smoke inhalation.
“Before we got them sometimes we would use a human mask, but these work much better, because the mask is actually deeper so it can cover the entire nose and mouth of the pet,” Augustin said. “And, you can wash them and use them again.”
On average, Augustin said the fire department uses the pet oxygen masks 10 times a year, and they are extremely effective in helping pets recover from carbon monoxide inhalation. Several years ago, Augustin said firefighters were called to the scene of a house fire, but by the time they got there the house was completely destroyed.
As officials searched through the remains of the house, Augustin said they realized part of the roof had fallen and completely covered a dog kennel. Because the remnants of the roof covered the kennel, it protected the dog inside from the heat, and fire rescue members were able to safely revive the animal using one of the oxygen masks.
“After all was said and done, we found the dog, and [the homeowner] didn’t care about the house. She was just happy she got her dog back safely,” Augustin said.
Ines De Pablo is the founder of Wag’N Enterprises, a pet emergency management company started in 2007. The company’s mission is to help those in the service industry, first responders and pet owners to prepare and respond to emergencies involving pets.
De Pablo said in 2008 her company began the O2 Fur Life Program, which provides pet oxygen masks to first responders and others throughout the country, including the metro Atlanta area. The mask kits Wag’N Enterprises sells come with three masks sizes that can be used on dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and more.
“It’s an enormous boost to someone’s spirit if you’re able to save a pet,” De Pablo said. “If the only thing you have left after a fire is a cat or dog, especially for a family with children, you can see the happiness on their faces when a firefighter says, ‘all your toys were burned but your pet was saved.’”