CALLERY — Pets here can breathe a little easier about surviving a fire, thanks to a new apparatus.
Callery Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Lynn Bouchier said a set of specialty oxygen masks made for pets of all sizes and species has been donated to the department by Invisible Fence of Western Pennsylvania.
Firefighters can use the masks to administer oxygen to a pet injured in a fire, Bouchier said. The kit includes small, medium and large adjustable masks.
Part of the Invisible Fence company’s “Project Breathe,” the 0masks arrived at the fire department last month.
Bouchier said the mask perimeter is adjustable, so a tight seal can be attained over the nose and mouth of any animal.
“It’s an incredible program,” Bouchier said of the donation. “The apparatus we carry or the ambulances carry won’t always get the job done, but this will.”
Bouchier, the owner of two pet birds, said a friend of hers saw Project Breathe on the Invisible Fence website, and told her about it.
“I went on the website and asked for a mask, and the next thing I know a box showed up with the mask in it,” Bouchier said.
She said the masks work much like a human oxygen mask in that they can be attached to the fire truck’s oxygen tank and fit over an animal’s face. An added feature allows firefighters to attach resuscitation apparatus to the mask.
“So we can breathe for the animal,” Bouchier said.
Bouchier said the majority of residential fire calls involve pets, and firefighters will enter the building to retrieve them using thermal imaging technology if they can do so safely.
“Most of the time they get them out,” Bouchier said.
But the pets frequently need oxygen, and a human mask does not offer a high enough concentration to a pet because they do not fit properly.
Albert Lee, director of Invisible Fence, said an estimated 40,000 to 150,000 pets die in fires each year, most from smoke inhalation.
“We realize that humans are the first priority, but in many cases, pets can be saved if firefighters have the right equipment,” Lee said.
George Ban, Butler fire chief, said all city trucks have been outfitted with pet oxygen masks for at least three years.
Lee hopes the masks will give Callery residents one less thing to worry about should tragedy strike.
“Pets are valued family members, so we want families to know that their pet can be cared for.”