Portland firefighters hope to add pet oxygen masks to life-saving tools

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PORTLAND — In a city that caters to its dog population with special parks, day-care centers, playgroups and boutiques, it’s should be little surprise the city has launched a fundraising effort to purchase oxygen masks for four-legged friends.

Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne, Planet Dog and the Portland Downtown District on Monday announced a $3,000 project to equip each fire truck in the city with a special oxygen mask designed to fit dogs, cats, ferrets and other family pets.

“Pets are becoming more and more part of our lives,” LaMontagne said. “We are seeing an increase (of pets) in urban homes.”

The chief said it is not uncommon for firefighters to find distressed animals at fires, and although human oxygen masks are used now, the specially designed pet masks fit better and have a different oxygen flow rate.

City Councilor Dave Marshall, whose dog Mocha modeled one of the masks at a press conference, said families whose homes catch fire are often greatly concerned about their pets’ safety. LaMontagne said the first words out of a homeowner’s mouth when firefighters arrive at the scene are often pleas to find their pets.

“Deaths (of pets) become more and more commonplace with more pets in the urban area,” the chief said. There have been four pet deaths this year due to fire.

The masks cost about $40 each, and come in different sizes. Kristen Smith of Planet Dog said the goal is to equip all seven of the city’s fire stations.

Donations can be dropped off at Planet Dog on Marginal Way, now through Labor Day.

Mocha seemed hesitant to model the mask at first, but LaMontagne pointed out that when an animal is in distress and disoriented at the scene of a fire, they are much more passive.

“If they aren’t, well, we take that as a good sign,” he said.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net

Sidebar Elements

Portland City Councilor David Marshall holds his dog Mocha, while she models a pet oxygen mask. Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne, right, and dog owner Becca Casey, with Diesel, look on Monday, Aug. 16, at Central Fire Station.