Pleasant Grove’s Fire Department is now better equipped to help save lives, but not just the lives of humans. Thanks to a donation of special oxygen masks, four-legged friends will now be safer when there are house fires.

Invisible Fence, Inc. donated the masks to the department through a campaign called Project Breathe. According to Eric Nish, firefighter/paramedic, the donated kits include masks for different sizes of pets and detailed information for CPR and oxygen administration procedures for animals.

“The masks themselves can also be used to attach a bag valve device to ventilate the animal if they are not breathing,” Nish said.

Members of the department have encountered animals in homes during fires.

“Commonly, the animal will self-evacuate,” Nish said. “When they don’t, it becomes a challenge for us. If the homeowner is there and alerts us of a missing animal, we make all attempts to locate and save it during our attack and search on the fire, with our main priority on stopping the fire from spreading.”

Nish said that the search techniques for animals are much the same as the ones that they use for humans during a fire. “We do this knowing the animal will likely be attempting to flee from firefighters,” he said.

Often, pets are found in areas of shelter, such as kennels or under furniture. These are typically prime areas that the firefighters check when conducting searches.

Nish recalls one dog who lived at a home that was completely destroyed by fire. Members of the Pleasant Grove Fire Department made many attempts to locate the dog but it was hiding and would not respond. The dog eventually crawled out of the rubble a couple of days later, seemingly unaffected.

According to American Humane, an organization, more than 500,000 pets are affected by house fires each year, with 1,000 house fires started by pets themselves. Nish said that animals are often affected by smoke more than humans because of their inability to understand the dangers of what is happening.

“Children also can have this same lack of understanding and attempt to shelter in a closet or under a bed rather than evacuate. That’s why it is crucial to teach our children early as well,” Nish said. “Both animals and humans can perish quickly due to the effects of toxic smoke inhalation.”

According to the ASPCA, some ways to ensure pet safety in the case of a house fire or other emergencies include noting where pets like to nap, having an emergency plan with an escape route, keeping emergency animal medical information handy, ensuring all pets wear collars with identification tags and preparing emergency supplies and traveling kits beforehand.

“The equipment is so similar to the equipment we use for humans that training is almost seamless with only subtle differences in procedure, mainly being oxygen flow settings,” Nish said. “It is great to have the capability to not only assist our human citizens and give them the medical attention they need, but also their loyal companions as well.”

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