New masks help pets survive fires

After a house fire was extinguished on Eastern Avenue in 2004 and firefighters determined no one was in danger, fire Chief Barry McKay found the paramedics assisting several smaller patients.

“I looked at the ambulance, and the back doors were open and that’s where the paramedics were,” McKay said. “They were giving oxygen to the cats. Some of the cats made it, some didn’t.”

At the time, the paramedics used masks designed for humans to give oxygen to the animals. Thanks to a donation from an area business, and the wallet of a firefighter, the Fire Department is now equipped with two sets of oxygen masks specifically designed for pets. Each set has three sizes to accommodate a range of animals.

McKay, a self-proclaimed dog- and cat-lover, said finding and saving human victims at fire scenes is rescuers’ first and foremost priority, but once the people are taken care of, paramedics can help out the dogs and cats with oxygen, which is the treatment for smoke inhalation.

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