Tomball, Spring area first responders receive oxygen masks to assist pets found in house fires

Tomball and Spring area first-responder groups received donations of pet oxygen mask kits from Invisible Fence's Project Breathe Program on July 17.

Tomball and Spring area first-responder groups received donations of pet oxygen mask kits from Invisible Fence's Project Breathe Program on July 17.

Four first responder groups in the Tomball and Spring areas received 49 pet oxygen mask kits from Invisible Fence's Project Breathe Program during a presentation July 17, according to a July 17 news release. The masks are intended to reduce the number of pets killed or injured in house fires each year, as the masks will help resuscitate a dog or cat when an animal is found in a burning home.

The Tomball Fire Department, Northwest Community Health—which contracts with Emergency Services District No. 8 to provide emergency medical services in Tomball—Cypress Creek EMS and the Spring Fire Department received the pet oxygen masks. The agencies applied separately for the grant program through Invisible Fence but were all awarded masks to meet the communities' needs, said Joe Sykora, the Tomball Fire Department fire marshal.

"It just so happened that all of us [applied for the grant] around the same time," Sykora said. "It just kind of shows the community response model. Rather than just one fire department participat[ing] and getting everything, we're all working together trying to improve our areas."

According to the release, 40,000 to 150,000 pets die each year in the U.S. in residential fires.

"[Pets] are the ones that are home that aren't able to get out, that aren't able to get low, and [they] don't understand to get away from the fire," Sykora said. "They try [to get out], and smoke fills the room. They have nowhere else to go."

A pet oxygen mask fits over the nose of dogs and cats, whereas a human oxygen mask is not able to seal over the pet's nose and give an adequate oxygen supply, Sykora said.

"These masks, they just help us so much with the animals. They're so much different than a human mask," he said. "This actually forms a seal around their snout so they're able to get the full amount of oxygen that they should be getting in order to recover from smoke inhalation injuries."

The Spring Fire Department received nine mask kits for its nine stations, CCEMS received 30 kits for each of its paramedic vehicles, the Tomball Fire Department received three kits for its three stations, and Northwest Community Health received seven kits for each of its EMS units, according to the release. Sykora said the Tomball Fire Department previously had three pet oxygen mask kits between its fire trucks, but Northwest Community Health did not have the pet-specific masks.

"Any point in time when we have a run-in with an animal, [we can now] provide oxygen to them," he said. "They are our four-legged community members just as much as their human parents are."
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