Holcomb Fire Department acquires pet-friendly oxygen masks

By Mark Minton
Garden City Telegram – April 17, 2017

Holcomb firefighter Shawn Myers. Photo by James M. Dobson.

In the event of a fire, the Holcomb Fire Department is ready and willing to not only save you, but also your pet, with a kit of tools that includes an animal oxygen mask designed to rehabilitate animals suffering from overexposure to smoke.

On Thursday, HFD Chief Bill Knight demonstrated the new technology, which was acquired in the fall, on two friendly canines from the Finney County Humane Society, Josie the pointer mix and Schmitty the terrier mix. Both animals helped show off the oxygen mask’s application for pets of various sizes.

The HFD has two sets, included in kits called Fido Bags, that were provided by The Fetch Foundation, a nonprofit organization based out of Arizona dedicated to putting a Fido Bag on every fire truck in the country.

“It provides oxygen to try and bring the animal around if they’re in a smoky environment,” Knight said.

He added that the mask is primarily intended for cats and dogs, but that it could theoretically be used on small pets such as “gerbils,” if one were to put the animal into the mask and hold a hand over the opening to contain the flow of air.

“We carry oxygen for medical purposes on our primary response apparatus for humans, and this was kind of a natural extension because we’ve had a couple situations where, unfortunately, the dog and cat just didn’t make it to begin with,” Knight said.

For a total of $135, the HFD acquired a Fido Bag complete with animal oxygen mask after seeing a story about it on Facebook. PetSmart was hosting a national challenge at the time, intended to encourage purchase of the tools by fire departments by paying for an extra Fido Bag with every purchase.

In addition to the specialized cone-shaped oxygen mask designed to fit a pet’s face, Fido Bags also contain specialized burn sheets, bandages, rinsing saline and protective restraints. According to the Fetch Foundation, oxygen masks designed for humans are too flat and small to fit a pet’s face.

The Fetch Foundation reported that fires in the U.S. affect approximately 500,000 pets each year, and 40,000 family pets die from smoke inhalation. The organization offers Fido Bags containing a single oxygen mask for $125, and a Fido Bag containing three oxygen masks for $175.

Knight said application training for use of the oxygen mask was conducted in the fall. The HFD has not yet used the mask, even after 29 fire calls made in 2017 so far. The annual average for calls received by the HFD is 54.

Knight said it is difficult to tell how often the oxygen masks will come in handy, noting that the HFD might not use the mask for two years in a row, or they could be used twice in one week. He said animals are more likely to become susceptible to the dangers of a house fire during the cooler months, when they are less likely to be outside.

As someone who has owned a dog “every day of my life,” Knight said he developed a vested interest in the preservation of pet safety during fire calls. The Fetch Foundation reported that they found fire responders’ priorities during an emergency to be people, pets and property, in that order.

Knight said he learned at a recent meeting of state firefighters that many area fire departments do not currently use Fido Bags or other oxygen masks designed for pets. The Garden City Fire Department currently utilizes three sets of animal-friendly oxygen masks, each set with two different sizes — one for cats and small dogs, and the other for large dogs — totaling six masks in all. Each mask is carried on battalion chief vehicles.

The HFD carries a Fido Bag on each of its vehicles, including a pickup designed to respond to grass fires and a primary response truck for structure fires.

Knight said the human body can shut down within three minutes of oxygen deprivation caused by smoke inhalation. He said that timeframe is even shorter for dogs and cats, noting that they will lose oxygen “a lot faster.”

He added that the oxygen mask at the HFD would fit larger dogs “up to a certain size.” He added that large breeds such as Great Danes might find more success with a human oxygen mask than the masks for animals currently available at the HFD.

Stephanie McGaughey, a pet owner and shelter manager at the Finney County Humane Society, said she thinks the masks are good for pets and pet owners.

“Some people’s pets are like their kids,” McGaughey said.

She noted that Josie and Schmitty, the loving dogs that tried on the masks during the HFD’s demonstration, are both up for adoption.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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