For some people, a pet is not just an animal — it’s a member of the family.
When tragedy strikes and a home catches on fire, sometimes those furry family members need rescuing, too.
With a little help from a nonprofit, the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety recently received 10 SurgiVet pet respirator masks that can be used to revive animals rescued from fires.
“Our priority is always a human being, but if we didn’t have all these, we’d put a regular human mask on [pets] too,” York County Fire Chief Steve Kopczynski said. “It helps us in helping them recover.”
Now, every ladder truck, engine and rescue truck in the county has a pet respirator mask stored with its medical equipment, meaning a mask will always be on-hand when fighting a fire.
According to the Every Snout Counts Facebook page, each respirator kit costs about $70, including shipping. The nonprofit seeks donations to fund the requests for masks, which can be dozens at a time.
Each kit includes three masks: a large canine mask, small canine mask and feline mask. With a little creativity, the masks could also be used for other house pets such as a guinea pig, if needed, Kopczynski said. The kits are called PEAKs — Pet Emergency Airway Kits.
Kopczynski first reached out to Every Snout Counts several months ago after receiving a tip that the organization was giving out respirators to fire departments that apply.
At the time, the department had a limited number of pet respirators on-hand, most of which were in the emergency medical services supervisor and battalion chief response vehicles.
“Sometimes they might not be in close proximity to the scene,” Kopczynski said.
All fire vehicles are advanced life support vehicles, like ambulances, but cannot transport patients. They each have an array of life-saving medical equipment.
A York County firefighter made a training video for the pet masks using his own dog as a subject, Kopczynski said. That video has been distributed amongst the county’s six fire stations so all firefighters can be trained to use them properly.
Koczynski said it’s not often that firefighters need to rescue unconscious pets from house fires, but occasionally they do. Many cats will run out of a house and hide.
Pet respirators are most often used on unconscious animals that inhaled smoke, but can also be used for smoke inhalation cases in which the pet is conscious but lethargic or in need of oxygen.
“We’ll administer oxygen to them — they’re no different than a human being,” Kopczynski said.