Firefighters at the Maple Ridge fire department have become some of the best equipped in Canada to save a pet’s life in the case of fire.
That’s because an ambitious group of Grade 7 students from Albion Elementary and Invisible Fence of British Columbia have donated 14 pet oxygen mask kits to the district’s fire department.
The idea to raise money for kits was hatched three years ago when a unique group of fourth graders entered Julie Bearpark’s class.
“This group of kids is really special,” said Bearpark, “They had a strong desire to raise money to help others.”
The class was inspired by a story Bearpark shared about Dr. Booth, a veterinarian in West Vancouver, who was trying to raise money to purchase pet oxygen masks for local fire fighters.
The class decided to follow suit and host a series of fundraisers throughout the year, with the goal of purchasing and donating pet oxygen masks at year-end.
As the 2009 school year concluded, the class was disappointed to discover the $650 they raised would only purchase a few kits.
“So the money sat in a savings account with the hope that the following years’ fourth grade would pick up where this class left off,” said Bearpark, “but that didn’t happen.”
Nearly three years later, assistant fire chief Timo Juurakko, who heard about Bearpark’s class, read about Invisible Fence Brand’s Project Breathe, a program established with the goal of equipping every fire station in North America with pet oxygen masks.
Juurakko suggested the two combine donation efforts. The idea paid off in a big way and they produced a 14-kit donation, enough to equip every fire truck in Maple Ridge, with one kit to spare.
“These masks allow Maple Ridge firefighters to give oxygen to pets who are suffering from smoke inhalation when they are rescued from fires,” explained Juurakko.
“If family pets are involved in a house fire, owners are terribly stressed and tempted to run back into a burning home to try and save a pet. It’s understandable, but extremely dangerous. These masks will give residents comfort in knowing that we can aide their pets if they are suffering from smoke inhalation after being rescued by firefighters.”
On average, fire kills eight people each week in Canada, with residential fires accounting for 73 per cent of these fatalities. In most provinces, emergency responders are unequipped to deal with the crisis. The loss is terrible for the family and heart wrenching for firefighters.
“When a family suffers the tragedy of a fire, lives are turned upside down,” said Patsy Pattison, owner of Invisible Fence British Columbia. “We realize that humans are the first-priority, but in many cases pets can be saved if firefighters have the right equipment,” said Pattison.
“Project Breathe is simply a way of giving firefighters the tools necessary to save pets’ lives.”
The company has set up a website, www.invisiblefence.com/O2, where people or companies can support the effort.