NEW BALTIMORE — The Medway-Grapeville Fire Company has received a supply of oxygen masks made exclusively for pets, courtesy of the company Invisible Fence of the Tri Cities & Hudson Valley, who specialize in the products.
The fire department received three masks in mid-August from the company that runs the Project Breathe program, in which it donates the masks to fire departments, Medway-Grapeville Fire Chief Matthew Marlow said, adding the 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 sizes, 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 a person would get and 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,” the chief said. “There’s no special adapter, it’s literally a plug-and-play system.”
Casualities of fires are frequently pets who 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 as a human can, and firefighters will evaluate all occupants of a home that has experienced a fire, Marlow said.
“Most victims of fire will need some kind of respiratory support for at least a few minutes,” the chief said.
Medway-Grapeville is one of several Greene County fire companies to do medical response calls and it now joins the ranks of Coxsackie Ambulance, which also has pet oxygen masks on board, 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 the masks to fire departments as a way of giving back, Invisible Fence of the Tri Cities & Hudson Valley owner Kim Bellizzi said.
“He wanted to do something to give back to the community,” Bellizzi said. “Animals nowadays are family members.”
Between 40,000 and 150,000 pets are estimated to die from smoke inhalation from fires, and 202 pets have been saved thanks to the more than 24,393 masks donated, Bellizzi said, adding residents in fire districts will help to sponsor the program for their firehouses.
The pet masks can be used as an educational tool in schools for children to learn about fire safety, Bellizzi said.
“The kids love it, they’ll bring stuffed animals with them,” she said. “It gets them onboard with fire safety.”