Pa. ambulance squad gets pet oxygen mask
The responders plan on increasing their animal readiness following a fire where two dogs died
By Chris Reber
GOULDSBORO, Pa. — Officials with Gouldsboro Ambulance Squad say they're a group of animal lovers.
The Lackawanna County-based ambulance company responds to many calls each year in Monroe County as a mutual-aid company, Captain Charles Barnette said, including last week's fire in Coolbaugh Township in which two dogs died.
Although not in time for that fire, the company received their first Wag'n O2 Fur Life pet oxygen mask last week. The equipment will allow them to potentially resuscitate animals rescued from a burning building.
"What if we could do something for the animals when we're on scene," he said. "I call them our furry family members. Why can't we do something to help them, too?"
All first responders have seen fires where animals were unable to escape, Barnette said. The masks are growing in popularity, at least two Monroe County-based companies are already using them.
Barnette was inspired to do something after he saw firefighters in Lackawanna County save a dog's life two years ago. A dog was pulled out of a burning house in Moscow borough unresponsive, but with a pulse. Crews were able to rush the animal to a local veterinarian who was able to resuscitate the dog.
"If my house was to go down and I couldn't get my animals out, it would probably devastate me on the level of losing a child," Barnette said.
Animals' natural tendency is to hide rather than flee the house during a fire, Barnette said. That means they may be protected from the flames, but not smoke inhalation. He recalled responding to a fire call in another area where a cat had wedged himself behind a toilet to shield himself from the flames.
"There's no way to really teach them," Barnette said. "We can't have a fire safety course for the animals."
Barnette found a partner in Invisible Fence of Northeast Pa. — its parent company has a program to donate masks across the country.
Barnette inquired about getting one for Gouldsboro, and its local owner came through.
"Pets are valued family members, so we want families to know that their pet can be cared for if tragedy strikes," owner Sean Prohaska said in a statement.
Last Wednesday, they trained with the product for the first time. The squad used a member's dog to test out the mask. While it didn't stay on the healthy dog at first, they baited the mask to keep him interested throughout the training exercise.
"It's kind of hard to do it on a hyper dog," Barnette said. "We had to put popcorn in the mask — then he kept it on longer."
The squad plans on increasing their animal readiness. They're already working on securing funding to put a mask in their second ambulance. They're also planning on holding CPR training so they can use the pet ventilators in combination with a traditional bag-valve mask used for CPR.
"I personally do not want to stand there and watch a pet die," Barnette said.