Smoke inhalation isn’t just a problem for people during a fire – it’s a problem for their pets, too.
In March, East Pierce Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Bud Backer was able to save a dog from a car fire because he was washing his car in the same parking lot.
“We thought that the dog would have been killed in the smoke,” Backer said after the fire. “But it was smart enough to get to the back of the car, and it must have hunkered down low.”
Now, the fire department is better equipped to rescue pets with the help of specially-designed oxygen masks.
The donation of these six new mask kits (which come with three masks of different sizes to fit most animals with a snout) comes from Invisible Fence of Seattle and their Project Breathe program.
The program’s goal is to equip every fire department in America and Canada with pet oxygen masks. So far, Invisible Fence has donated more than 12,400 masks.
The masks allow firefighters to more effectively administer oxygen to cats and dogs, often saving the animal’s life.
“When a family suffers the tragedy of a fire, lives are turned upside down,” said Ed Hoyt, director of Invisible Fence, in a press release. “Pets are valued family members, so we want families to know that their pet can be cared for if tragedy strikes.”
Backer said that the masks have been placed on each of the six fire engines deployed throughout the fire district that includes Bonney Lake, Sumner, Tehaleh, Lake Tapps South Prairie, Edgewood, Milton and the Ridge communities.
Coming up: April Pools Day
East Pierce is partnering with the Gordon Family YMCA and Bonney Lake Police to host April Pools Day on Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sumner YMCA.
The free event focuses on open-water safety in a controlled pool environment. The YMCA is waiving the membership fee so non-members to attend.
Activities will be geared toward children ages 7-12, and an adult must accompany children 6 and younger.
The first two hours will include water safety instruction, activities and prizes followed by an open swim with the firefighters and police officers.
“The event is designed to help teach open water safety in a safe environment through fun activities and games,” said East Pierce Fire and Rescue Public Education Specialist Dina Sutherland. “The children will rotate through several stations, learning different safety skills.”
Children will discuss a significant aspect about the rivers and lakes in this area—cold water. “It’s important to remember that even when the weather is warm, glacier-fed water in our lakes and rivers can be very, very cold. Just a few minutes in cold water can cause cold water incapacitation, making it very difficult to swim or even to keep afloat,” said Sutherland. ”Just under the surface, the temperature can be 55 degrees or colder. That kind of cold water, even on the hottest summer day, can significantly lower the body’s core temperature. If that happens, the body becomes incapable of functioning properly, affecting the ability to swim.”
Cold water incapacitation has been responsible for a number of deaths on Lake Tapps. Four years ago, three people drowned in Lake Tapps in separate incidents. “By focusing on water safety through programs such as this, we are hoping to improve awareness,” said Sutherland. Thanks in part to the efforts of East Pierce and the Swim Safe Coalition, no one has drowned in Lake Tapps since 2012. “We want to make this another drown-free summer,” she said.