By Nathan Gonzalez and Kate Jacobs For azcentral.com
There’s a general rule for firefighters: protect life first, then property.
But while residents are often able to escape a potentially deadly fire, many pets aren’t so lucky, said Gilbert Fire Capt. Mike Connor.
“For a lot of people, their family is their pet,” Connor said. “Most of the time what we see are pets left inside homes. The first thing you’ll hear somebody say is, ‘I can’t find my dog.'”
Enter Marie Peck, a Scottsdale woman who started a foundation that aims to have every fire department in the country supplied with equipment that can increase pets’ chances of surviving a fire.
She has donated 10 of her “Fido Bags” to the Gilbert Fire Department. The bags, which run about $275, contain a specialized, elongated oxygen mask better suited for dogs and cats as well as other lifesaving items.
“It just kills me,” Peck said about fire departments’ general lack of equipment that offers a better chance to save pets’ lives. “I really want these bags on the trucks.”
“We see a lot of smoke inhalation injuries,” Connor said. “In the past we have taken human oxygen masks and put it on their snouts, but the masks aren’t made for animals and it’s hard to get a good seal.”
Aside from a specialized mask, the bags contain bandages, splints, burn sheets, thick gloves to handle the animals, restraints, leashes and muzzles.
On Wednesday, 22 firefighters and volunteer members of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Posse watched as Animal Health Services veterinarian Cliff Faver showed how to calm a scared pet and apply an oxygen mask.
“The techniques are not a lot different from what we already do,” Connor said.
Firefighters and posse members were taught how to provide basic life support for animals, including how to effectively perform CPR. That requires putting a dog on its side, bending one of its front legs back and conducting chest compressions where its elbows come to rest.
“We learned some restraint techniques” and some holds, Connor said. “We need to keep eye contact with the animal, try rubbing its forehead and calming the dog down.”
Calming an animal is important to ensure a responder’s safety, Connor said.
“If there’s an animal that’s been hit by a car or burned in a house fire, we need to know how to protect ourselves not to get bit,” he said.
Initial donations of basic medical supplies came from a doctor’s widow through Peck, who started the non-profit Scottsdale-based Fetch Foundation. Other medical supplies were then gathered and Fido Bags were delivered to nine fire departments around the state and in Kanab, Utah.
Chandler and Scottsdale are the next Valley cities to receive the bags, Peck said.
Peck is soliciting tax-deductible donations to help distribute the Fido Bags.
The bags can be embroidered and donated “in memory of” a deceased pet if a sponsor provides a tax-deductible donation of $275.
The bags will be housed at each of Gilbert’s 10 fire stations, Connor said. The town is working to equip the Police Department’s K-9 Unit with them.
“We aren’t going to be doing anything different, we are just going to have better equipment to do it,” Connor said.
Information or to make a donation: www.thefetchfoundation.com.