GREAT FALLS — Great Falls Fire Rescue is helping pets breathe easier after a fire.
Firefighters have oxygen masks made just for our furry friends. The pet oxygen masks fit over the snouts of dogs and cats to provide supplemental oxygen after the animal has inhaled smoke or carbon monoxide from a fire.
“When our people respond to structure fires or other instances when pets are in jeopardy, especially with respiratory issues, they’re able to use these masks to help save people's pets,” explained Shane Klippenes, GFFR Deputy Chief of Training.
They’re a bit different from the ones used on people. "With a person we can tell them to breathe deep, or do whatever, give them some instructions. Most of the times the pets are either unresponsive or scared, so something like these that fits all the way around and has a free flow of the oxygen is great for pets,” Klippenes said.
The pet oxygen masks have come in handy recently. Firefighters from Station One responded to a structure fire recently where they rescued five cats; two of the cats were in bad shape.
“It was interesting to see how quickly they perked up from being lethargic and floppy, to one of them was a lover and one of them wanted to use us as a scratching post, but we were able to return both of them to their owner, who was extremely happy,” explained Klippenes.
Firefighters have the pet oxygen masks thanks to the observation and generosity of the community. A Great Falls resident saw a firefighter using a human oxygen mask on a cat and wanted to help.
The person raised the money and donated the masks.
“It’s neat to see when people within our community see a need, especially if it’s something they’re passionate about themselves, they can see the need, know it’s probably not budgeted for, and just provide it,” said Klippenes.
Fire Station One has oxygen masks for pets on all four of its engines, as well as their ambulance and command vehicle.