Pet oxygen mask use for the first time by firefighters in London house fire

NEWS AND COMMENT: It seems strange to me that this is apparently the first time that a specially designed custom-fitting oxygen mask has been used by firefighters in the UK on a cat. Or perhaps it is the first time it's been used in London, UK. The report is unclear on that. However you look at it, it appears that the UK is well behind America. I have read many reports on American news media of custom-designed pet oxygen masks used by firefighters although I suspect they are not used across the country.

Pet oxygen mask use for the first time in London house fire by firefighters
Pet oxygen mask use for the first time in London house fire by firefighters. Photo: PA.

In this instance, the oxygen masks were donated by not-for-profit organisation Smokey Paws. They can be used on cats, dogs as well as smaller animals such as snakes and mice. The masks will be carried on fire engines in Hammersmith, Richmond, Paddington and Battersea as part of a pilot scheme. If it is a success the pet oxygen masks will be rolled out to fire stations across London.

The introduction of pet oxygen masks appears to be a recognition by firefighters in the UK that pets are an important part of the family and it is inappropriate nowadays to improvise by using oxygen masks designed for humans which will clearly be less effective.

Station officer Nathan Beeby who was at the fire on Friday when the mask was used for the first time said: "Crews did a great job in challenging conditions to tackle this house fire and then were able to focus on the pets they had rescued. Having something specially designed made so much difference as the mask is properly sealed around the animal's muzzle and all the oxygen is going into their lungs. The crews all thought it was a great piece of equipment that was easy-to-use with the training they had all received, quick to get to work with and ultimately saved the cat's life. Having the specialist equipment there also put the occupier at ease and they were really happy with the outcome."

For a cat and animal lover it is great to see concern for animals in house fires. In my experience of reading news media articles about house fires and the rescue of pets from them, it is often the case that the cats don't get out but humans do. This is understandable because the first and instinctive desire of a human is to get out to safety and not to find their cat beforehand, which may jeopardise their life.

Pet oxygen masks of various sizes
Pet oxygen masks of various sizes. Image: PA.

It makes you think though. For example, anybody can have 10 cats in a house. There are no laws against it. But perhaps there should be a law which states that anybody who is 10 cats in a house should have a sprinkler system! That might sound extraordinary or ridiculous but, in that house, there are going to be at least 11 sentient beings, 10 of which are dependent upon the remaining one, the human caregiver. If that house goes up in flames, a sprinkler system would save lives.

In the UK there are quite heavy rules governing landlords who rent out houses of multiple occupation i.e. in-house conversion in which there might be 10 families. There will be all kinds of considerations to help protect the lives of the occupiers in an emergency. Firstly, I don't see much difference between that and a home with 10 cats in it.

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