BALTIMORE, Md. (WJZ)– Safety first, that’s the rule during a fire emergency, but often that includes leaving behind important members of the family like pets. Now, first responders in Baltimore County have oxygen masks to help in their pet rescues.

Each year, about 500,000 pets are injured by fire. The donation will help prevent those pet injuries in the Baltimore area.

An August fire in East Baltimore left a family dog dead.  The August incident is not rare. Nearly 40,000 pets die from fire and smoke inhalation each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

“By the time they make it to the emergency hospital and I get to see them, so much damage has been done, that it’s too late,” said Dr. Emily Reger, veterinarian at the Falls Road Animal Hospital.

“We can actually ventilate the dog, if they’e not breathing well,” said Lt. Amy Backhaus of the Baltimore County Fire Department. “We’ve actually saved a couple dogs and the families are extremely thankful and to have the right equipment to do it. It’s going to be wonderful.”

The masks are designed to fit the pet’s muzzle and deliver vital oxygen. Each kit comes with 3 masks, in small, medium and large to accommodate pets of all types and sizes.

“They will go hide because they’re most secure underneath the bed,” said Jeff Little, owner of Invisible Fence Baltimore.

Little is donating a kit to each of the 58 fire stations in Baltimore County as part of the Project Breath Initiative. He says pets are especially vulnerable during a fire.

“As humans we know to run away. We know where the exits are,” said Little.

The kits cost nearly $3,500 but their possible impact is priceless.

“If we do have an animal come out of that house, we want to do everything we can to save them,” said Dr. Reger.

The fire department says, during a fire it’s never smart to stay too long or go back in the house for a pet.  Leave a door or window open and go.

About 4,000 pet oxygen kits have been donated around the country and Canada.

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