All fire departments in Highland County will soon have pet oxygen mask kits to help animals suffering from smoke inhalation, according to Scott Miller, training coordinator for the Highland County Firefighters Association.
“I saw a story on Channel 12 News last week, went online and filled out a request form, and a guy called and said, ‘Hey, we’re to be able to help you,’” Miller said.
Miller said he believes some of the fire departments in the county already have one of the devices that hook to firefighters’ oxygen tanks and go over a dog or other animal’s snout. In fact, he said, he used one the former Hillsboro Fire & Rescue had several years ago to help a dog during a fire on Collins Avenue in Hillsboro.
He said local fire departments would likely only need them a couple times a year, but that firefighters will like having them available if they’re needed.
“I think they will,” Miller said. “Pets are like people’s children so whenever you can help them, you want to help them if you can.”
Local departments, including some outside of Highland County, receiving the masks from Invisible Fence Brand’s Project Breathe program, include: Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District, Highland County North Joint Fire and EMS District, Lynchburg Area Joint Fire and EMS District, Southern Highland Joint Fire District, Brush Creek Township Fire Department, Marshall Township Fire Department, Brush Creek Life Squad, Clinton-Highland Joint Fire District, Fayetteville Fire and Rescue, Bainbridge Volunteer Fire Department and Peebles Fire Department.
The masks will be presented Thursday during the firefighters association’s monthly meeting at the Highland County EMA Office at the North High Business Center in Hillsboro.
Project Breathe was established with the goal of equipping every fire station in America and Canada with pet oxygen masks. A total of more than 12,400 pet oxygen masks have been donated to fire stations in both countries throughout the life of the program, according to a news release from Invisible Fence Brand.
“When a family suffers the tragedy of a fire, lives are turned upside down,” said Ed Hoyt, director of Invisible Fence Brand. “Pets are valued family members, so we want families to know that their pet can be cared for if tragedy strikes. We realize that humans are the first priority, but in many cases, pets can be saved if firefighters have the right equipment.”
Although the number of pets that die in fires is not an official statistic kept by the U.S. Fire Administration, industry web sites and sources have cited an estimated 40,000 to 150,000 pets die in fires each year, most succumbing to smoke inhalation, the news release said.
The company has set up a website, www.invisiblefence.com/O2, where local fire personnel can make a request for their own departments.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.