The St. Paul Fire Department received a donation of 36 pet oxygen mask kits Tuesday from Invisible Fence Brand Twin Cities, a company known for its electronic pet fence containment system. The masks allow emergency responders to provide oxygen to pets who are suffering from smoke inhalation after being rescued from fires.
"We all recognize that pets are not just pets; pets are members of our family," said Assistant Fire Chief of Operations Jim Smith.
Whiles humans know to get out of a building when there is a fire, animals typically hide, he said. The department had been "very ill-prepared" to resuscitate the pets they came across in fires, Smith said.
In May, a dog clinging to life was saved from a St. Paul house fire when a crew member used a human oxygen mask to administer oxygen. Five other dogs died in that blaze. What makes the pet oxygen masks different than human masks is their shape. The masks come in several different sizes, making it easier for rescuers to find one that fits an animal's snout. The masks are made to accommodate cats and other pets as well as dogs.
The donation is part of Invisible Fence's Project Breathe program, which has provided masks to other fire departments across the United States and Canada, including cities such as Denver, Chicago and Memphis. It donated masks to the Minneapolis Fire Department in 2010.
The St. Paul Fire Department does not keep records on how many pets are killed in fires, but industry web sites and sources that the department referenced estimate that 40,000 to 150,000 pets die in fires each year in the United States, most succumbing to smoke inhalation.
The masks are valued at $3,600.