Did you know firefighters can provide animal-sized oxygen masks to pets during rescue?

A cat receives oxygen through an animal-sized oxygen mask. (Southside Daily/courtesy of the Virginia Beach Fire Department)
A cat receives oxygen through an animal-sized oxygen mask. (Southside Daily/courtesy of the Virginia Beach Fire Department)

VIRGINIA BEACH — When firefighters go into a burning building to rescue those inside, they sometimes need to administer oxygen to the people they’ve pulled out, even for the pets they save.

Fire departments around Hampton Roads, including Virginia Beach, have animal-sized oxygen masks that firefighters can use to administer oxygen to animals they pull from structure fires, said Art Kohn, Virginia Beach Fire Department spokesman.

Getting those oxygen masks to the stations was a coordinated effort, however.

Gary Brittingham, a retired Virginia Beach firefighter, coordinated efforts some 10 years ago to get animal-sized masks for the fire engines and rescue teams.

“I’ve been rescuing animals for a while,” he said. “The Virginia Beach Fire Department considers a pet as a member of the family, they are a life.”

The masks firefighters use are surgical masks that veterinarians use on animals they treat, he said.

He wanted to bring the masks to local fire stations and was told he needed to find a way that wouldn’t cost the fire department any money at the time.

The masks he ended up bringing in are reusable and a pack of three costs about $80.

Donated funding was used to buy the masks and the Animal Rescue of Tidewater coordinated donations, Brittingham said.

Each time a set of masks comes in, they come in three different sizes: small, medium and large.

Since they are reusable, the fire department hasn’t had to replace any yet, Brittingham said.

He said the city now recognizes the oxygen masks as a necessary purchase so they will replace the masks if needed through the city’s budget.

Brittingham credits the community as well as Animal Rescue of Tidewater and other local animal welfare agencies with getting the masks.

While the fire department doesn’t need anymore masks, community members who want to donate funds can give them to their local animal shelters and animal welfare agencies, Brittingham said.

To find out information about the oxygen masks, click here.

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