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Fire companies pursue pet oxygen masks

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    Contributed photo Oxygen masks for pets, courtesy of Invisible Fence.
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    Contributed photoMedway-Grapeville Fire Company First Assistant Chief Ken Fava, Chief Matthew Marlow and Invisible Fence of Northern New New York President Steve Rentz with a bag of pet oxygen masks.
October 9, 2018 05:48 pm

In a house fire, heavy smoke can be deadly to the people inside and pets can also suffer the same fate.

The Medway-Grapeville Fire Company has received a supply of oxygen masks made exclusively for pets courtesy of Invisible Fence of the Tri Cities & Hudson Valley — a company that specializes in safety gear for domestic animals.

The fire department received three masks in mid-August from the company through the Project Breathe donation program, Medway-Grapeville Fire Chief Matthew Marlow said. The fire company first reached out to Invisible Fence early this summer.

“They were gracious in doing it for us,” Marlow said. “We might be one of the first fire companies in Greene County to have them.”

The masks, typically used for cats and dogs, come in three different measurements depending on the animal’s size.

“They hook up to a standard medical-operation cylinder,” he said. “They enable us to give oxygen to pets who are caught in a fire.”

The masks provide the same amount of oxygen as a person would get. Bag-valve-mask ventilation can be used for an animal in cardiac arrest, Marlow said.

“The mask goes around the animal’s mouth and we are able to breathe for them while CPR is given,” Marlow said. “There’s no special adapter. It’s literally a plug-and-play system.”

Fire casualties are typically pets that may be restrained or stuck in a crate and cannot escape a blaze, Marlow said.

“Pets, I don’t want to say are forgotten, but are unfortunately unable to get out on their own,” Marlow said. “Animals may get separated or are restrained in a crate.”

Animals can experience the effects of smoke inhalation the same as a human, he said.

“Most victims of fire will need some kind of respiratory support for at least a few minutes,” the fire chief said.

Medway-Grapeville is one of several Greene County fire companies to answer medical response calls and it now joins Coxsackie Ambulance, which carries pet oxygen masks on its rigs, Marlow said.

“I would like to think our company is very proactive,” he said. “It’s a nice tool to have in the kit.”

The cost of the masks average about $60. Invisible Fence CEO Randy Boyd came up with the idea in 2006 to donate them to fire departments as a way of giving back, Invisible Fence Kim Bellizzi said.

“He wanted to do something to give back to the community,” Bellizzi said. “Animals nowadays are family members.”

Invisible Fence has donated nearly 25,000 masks over the last decade.

Between 40,000 and 150,000 pets nationwide are estimated to die from smoke inhalation and 202 pets have been saved by the donated masks, Bellizzi said.

“It’s very widely accepted,” she said of the masks. “They caught on very quickly.”

The pet masks can be used as an educational tool in schools to help children learn about fire safety, Bellizzi said.

“The kids love it,” she said. “They’ll bring stuffed animals with them. It gets them onboard with fire safety.”

The Greenport Fire Department received pet oxygen masks two years ago after members of the department saw the product at the state Association of Fire Chiefs Conference and Fire Expo at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, Greenport Fire Chief John Onufrychuk said.

“I wrote a letter to the company seeing what we could do to get a set and they set us up with the training and kit,” Onufrychuk said. “It’s a good thing.”

The masks came in handy when Greenport firefighters responded to a house fire on Kline Street and up to 15 cats had to be hooked up to oxygen, Onufrychuk said. One cat died in the blaze, but the rest were saved by the masks.

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email dzuckerman@thedailymail.net or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.