Wheaton fire department now equipped with pet oxygen masks
Wheaton Fire Department Chief Bill Schultz estimates his staff only sees one or two cases per year of animals overcome by smoke inhalation.
Despite the low numbers, Wheaton firefighters are now equipped with updated gear specifically designed to help any pet with a snout breathe easier in the case of a fire.
Invisible Fence DuPage donated six pet oxygen mask kits to the fire department earlier this month, after a Wheaton firefighter with a soft spot for pets made the request.
The business is part of a national company that installs electronic dog fence systems and runs Project Breathe, which has resulted in 13,000 donated pet oxygen kits to fire departments in the U.S. and Canada in the past 10 years.
"We're all about making sure that pets are protected and safe and happy," said Jeromy Welch, a corporate marketing and public relations spokesman for Invisible Fence. "Not only this particular donation, but all the donations are truly a way for us to give back to the communities that we serve."
Schultz said the department has had animal oxygen masks in the past, but they were outdated and losing quality over time from being mostly unused.
"It's one more piece of equipment in our arsenal to serve our citizens," he said. "Our priority is human lives, and where we can take care of animals we certainly will do that, because those animals are part of someone's family."
Each kit contains three sizes of masks for small, medium and large pets, including dogs, cats, ferrets and gerbils. The masks work just like a human oxygen mask and can be hooked up to the fire department's oxygen tanks after all humans in need have received assistance.
No official statistics on pet casualties are kept by the U.S. Fire Administration, but Invisible Fence officials cite industry websites and sources that estimate between 40,000 to 150,000 pets die in fires each year, mostly due to smoke inhalation.
Since 2009, more than a dozen other suburban fire departments -- including Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Lisle-Woodridge, North Aurora, Oakbrook Terrace, Palatine and West Chicago -- have received pet oxygen masks donations from Invisible Fence DuPage. Anyone interested in requesting pet oxygen mask kits for their community can do so at www.invisiblefence.com/why-invisible-fence/project-breathe.