Although there was a lot of fire damage to the house, the good news is that all family members who lived there survived and one of the pets – near death when it was first brought out – is now alive.
When the white Bichon Frise named Katie was first brought out of the house by a firefighter, she was covered in black soot, unconscious and not breathing. Batt. Chief Tom Stone immediately took action to save the animal by giving it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until breathing started again.
Then one of the O2 Fur Life Pet Oxygen Masks, donated to the department by the North County Dog Obedience Training Club, was used to stabilize the dog. Thanks to the diligent efforts of Batt. Chief Stone and others, the dog was able to be transported to a local animal hospital where it made a miraculous recovery.
“Dogs, cats, and other animals like rabbits and guinea pigs suffer smoke inhalation just like humans,” said Batt. Chief Randy Getz of the Hazelwood Fire Department. “Pets will pass out and go unconscious. The donated masks we received make it easier for us to save pets because they push more air through for the animals to breathe.”
Hazelwood firefighter/paramedics understand that people have strong emotional ties to the pets. They often see the anxiety in people’s faces when a family pet is still in a burning house. “We’ve even had to stop residents from going back inside the house to rescue their pets,” Getz added.
But in this type of emergency situation, saving human life is a top priority before starting a search for pets. If the firefighters do find any pets, they bring the animals outside and administer oxygen treatment, if needed, before the pets are returned to their owners.
In July 2010, the North County Dog Obedience Training Club presented the Hazelwood Fire Department with a couple of mask sets to equip the fire trucks, valued at $78 each. “These masks can fit on dogs, cats, ferrets, birds, rabbits, and almost any size of small animal,” said Ralph Spillman, president of the North County Dog Obedience Training Club.
“This way, the idea is to save them and keep them alive until the owners can get them to a vet,” Spillman said. “These masks get more air to them than masks designed for humans.”