Eugene-Springfield Fire gets rescue air masks for pets

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - The Eugene-Springfield Fire Department received 35 pet oxygen masks at Fire Station No. 5 Wednesday, donated by the McKenzie Cascade Dog Fanciers Club.

The masks will be dispersed to all of the department's first response units and to five other area agencies.

"In many house fires, people have an easier time escaping than their pets," Chief Randy Groves said. "When structures are searched, firefighters often encounter pets that have succumbed to smoke."

Groves says he wants to know the public to understand the department recognizes how important animals are to individuals and families.

Three-year-old Casey, the Eugene Springfield Fire Department's official fire safety Dalmatian was on hand to demonstrate one of the 35 new mask sets.

"We've always had oxygen masks, but these are specifically shaped to go over the muzzle of a cat or dog," Deputy Fire Marshal Amy Linder said. Linder is Casey's handler.

Linder said before the merge of the two departments, they had 12 masks, but now the department has more rigs in need.

She says the animal masks create a seal around the airway, allowing for better flow of oxygen than if a human mask was used.

Humans remain the top priority, Linder said. But as a secondary priority, a pet's life can now be saved.

"We can't save everyone, we can't save every animal," she said. "It does provide the tools necessary that if the opportunity is there, we can make a difference. It gives us the best chance possible."

Marilee Woodrow, Springfield City Councilor and member of the McKenzie Cascade Dog Fanciers Club said another member saw a story on the news in March that showed the resuscitation of a cat. "They said how is our local fire departments equipped."

Woodrow says the club got in touch with the department to see how many masks they would need.

"After several meetings and phone calls, they came back with 35," Woodrow said. "We said great! You got it! Done."

Groves says the department will be prepared to administer oxygen in the event of a fire where an animal is exposed to smoke or fumes.

"There have been a number of occasions when animals have been successfully rescued by one of the department's 12 masks."

Some of the masks will be shared with McKenzie, Upper McKenzie, Siuslaw Fire, Lorane Rural and Santa Clara departments. Each set comes with a small and large mask.

In the past, the McKenzie Cascade Dog Fanciers Club donated $13,000 to the Springfield Police Department's K9 Unit. The used that money to install "door-poppers" for their K9 patrol cars.