Citrus County Fire Rescue get pet masks

Battalion Chief Bob Bessler; Firefighter Edward Paniccia; Animal Services Operations Supervisor Crystal Wallace and dog Sasha, demonstrate the use of donated pet resuscitation masks. Sasha is available for adoption at Citrus County Animal Services.

Every day fire rescue workers rush into burning homes, putting their lives at risk to pull people to safety.

The victims get fed fresh oxygen to clear their lungs of smoke, the major cause of death during fires.

Those same rescue workers also risk their lives to save homeowners’ pets, often loved by their owners as they do their families.

But what of fresh air for them? Human masks don’t do much good.

Invisible Fence Inc., the Tennessee-based company that manufactures and installs underground fencing to corral pets in their yards, donates pet oxygen masks as part of the company’s Project Breathe. Since 2006, the company has donated more than 25,000 masks to fire responders.

This week, Invisible Fence of Florida donated 33 pet masks to Citrus County Fire Rescue as part of Project Breathe.

The company said in a County Fire Rescue news release that hundreds of pets nationwide have been saved by the program.

“Each year, it’s estimated more than 40,000 pets die in fires, most succumbing to smoke inhalation,” according to the Citrus County Fire Rescue news release. “The reality in most cases is that first responders lack the equipment to resuscitate and save these animals. Programs like Project Breathe are addressing this issue.”

Ed Hoyt, director of Invisible Fence, said that fire departments are able to help a pet in need.

“The Project Breathe Program goal is simple,” Hoyt said. “We want to ensure that every fire department and rescue unit across the (United States) and Canada is equipped with life-saving pet oxygen masks.”

“The devices will be used for rescues like the recent one in Citrus Springs … where Citrus County Fire Rescue firefighters responded to a structure fire,” according to the news release.  “Crews confirmed there were no occupants present; however, there were 10 cats in the home. Crews were able to save eight of the 10 cats; five of which required resuscitation by personnel using pet oxygen masks.”

Invisible Fence said it wanted more fire departments to have the pet saving equipment.

“As a program that thrives by word of mouth, Invisible Fence encourages people to contact your local fire department to find out if they have these pet-saving kits,” the company said. “Fire departments can request pet oxygen mask kit donations."

For information or questions, customers can call 800-578-3647 or visit InvisibleFence.com.

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.

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