June 30, 2010
LAKELAND, Tenn. – Pet oxygen mask helped save five cats and one dog in a Lakeland house fire. 14 other cats died after the fire broke out Tuesday morning.
“The cats, by all outward appearances, appeared to have died,” said Firefighter Brent Perkins.
The pet oxygen masks were bought a year and a half ago, as part of a grant from a local businessman who specializes in pet waste removal and thought they would be an important addition to the fire department.
This was the first time Shelby county firefighters used them and while some were skeptical, they aren’t any more. Tuesday, firefighters battling a fire at the home, found almost two dozen cats inside, balled up, near the front door.
“To hear them saying “there’s another one coming out” is something that catches your attention on a higher level,” said Perkins.
Firefighters grabbed pet masks, stored on every truck. Like human oxygen masks, they allowed firefighters to give oxygen to the cats. Neighbor Carey Hoskins watched from across the street.
“The first cat they brought out, three EMTs rushed to it, put oxygen masks on it. They treated it as if it were a child you know. It was amazing to see,” said Hoskins.
14 cats died but 5 cats were resuscitated including a particularly frisky one.
“As he came to, began to get some sense, re-orientate himself and decided he no longer wanted to be there, so he’s AWOL right now. As I understand it, neighbors are still looking for him,” said Perkins.
A dog was also saved. Some firefighters admit they were skeptical the masks would work.
“Like I said, I’m a believer theses are wonderful devices,” said Perkins.
Despite the number of cats inside, neighbors say the family who lived here, were actually trying to decrease the cat population.
“We have an over population. They capture them in a special cage and take them to their vet and get them spade and neutered to try to decrease the population,” said Hoskins.
Perkins said, the homeowners could have come back to a complete loss, but they didn’t.
“I don’t care if it’s a person or animal our firefighters performed heroic measures knowing a life had to be saved. I’m proud of them, every last one of them,” said Perkins.
The homeowners were not home at the time of the fire and a cause has not yet been determined. Two firefighters were transported for heat exhaustion but they along with the surviving animals, are expected to be just fine.