Each year, about 40,000 pets die in house fires, according to the Live Safe Foundation.
That’s 10 times higher than the number of humans killed.
Dogs and cats will typically take shelter in closets and bathrooms during a structure fire, but the smoke builds fast and can cause asphyxiation. The animals become too weak to walk on their own.
But in cases where the animal can be taken to oxygen — whether forced air or fresh — the pet can typically be saved.
This week, Flagstaff resident Cathy Cobbin took steps that she hopes will save the lives of a few local dogs and cats. Together with other members of the Order of the Eastern Star, Cobbin and her husband, Phil, delivered three sets of pet-specific oxygen masks to the Flagstaff Fire Department.
“I found that Flagstaff did not have any of these for their six stations,” Cobbin said. “My group was able to raise enough funds to purchase three sets for the fire department.”
“We hope these will help save more of our beloved companions in the future,” she added.
Engineer Joe Toth says he’ll distribute the three sets to the fire units that respond most frequently to structure fires.
And he says he’d also like to find the funds to equip all the engines, rescue vehicles and battalion chief cars in the department.
“My hope is to be able to get these pet masks on each of them,” Toth said.
In the past, crews have tried to use oxygen masks designed for infants, but the fit is often poor because there’s no room for a dog’s long snout. That can hinder rescue.
And the masks aren’t limited to fires — they can also be life-savers for gas leaks, choking and other health issues.
And fire crews in the Flagstaff area have a history of going out of their way to protect animals. Last year, the Summit Fire Department herded 14 cats and four goats from a rollover on the interstate and then piled them into the fire engine to keep them safe.
Flagstaff firefighter Chris Romero says that it’s also still common for firefighters to help pull stranded cats from trees.
“A lot of people ask, ‘Why do you risk your lives for the lives of animals?’” Romero said. His reply is that people view their pets as members of the family, which means to residents, they are well worth saving.
“We will risk our lives to save your dog,” he said.
Eric Betz can be reached at 556-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.