Why Bloomingdale firefighters are grateful for pet oxygen masks

When a dog is rescued from a burning home thick with smoke, what happens if the pooch is gasping for air?

In Bloomingdale, firefighters had to resort to using an adult oxygen mask that was never designed for pets.

“They usually just don't want anything to do with it,” Fire Chief Jeff Janus says.

That only adds to the animal's stress and leaves the owner frantic.

“We understand that a lot of people's pets are like their families,” Janus says.

And that's why the Bloomingdale Fire Protection District on Thursday welcomed a donation to equip crews with new masks specifically meant to fit around a snout and administer oxygen to a pet struggling to breath.

Invisible Fence of Chicagoland donated two kits — each with a small, medium and large mask — that the district will keep on apparatus at its two stations. With the help of a veterinarian, firefighters were trained Thursday how to use the mask on a dog that visited the headquarter station on Bloomingdale Road.

“They'll always be out on the scene if we need them,” Janus said of the equipment.

Through a program called “Project Breathe,” the company has provided more than 10,000 kits to fire stations across the country and Canada. Earlier this month, Wheaton firefighters received the devices.

The U.S. Fire Administration and the fire district don't track how many pets die in fires, but Invisible Fence says the industry puts that tally at an estimated 40,000 to 150,000 each year.

“We're just really grateful for the donation,” Janus said. “We hope we never have to use them, but it's nice to know that they're there.”

Fire departments can complete forms seeking the kits at

  Dr. Mondrian Contreras, right, with the Carol Stream Animal Hospital, offers some pet-saving tips for Lt. Joseph McClimon, far left, and firefighter-paramedics Kevin Lind, John Patiga and Michael Butler at the Bloomingdale Fire Protection District's main station. Bev Horne/
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