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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Valley Fire Department gets oxygen masks for pets

Odin, the dog, demos a Project Breathe pet oxygen mask kit with SVFD paramedic Nick Zambryski, left, and veterinarian Erica Ronhovde during a  media demonstration on Wednesday, June 27, 2018, at Sullivan Fire Station No. 5 in Spokane Valley, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane Valley Fire Department got new lifesaving equipment for the dogs and cats of Spokane Valley on Wednesday.

Each of the department’s 11 main fire engines – which service Spokane Valley, Millwood, Liberty Lake and Otis Orchards – will now carry oxygen masks for pets, thanks to a donation of kits from company Invisible Fence.

This month, firefighters have been training in the use of the masks and the techniques of pet CPR using a video created by local veterinarian Erica Ronhovde, said department spokeswoman Melanie Rose.

The pet kits are part of Project Breathe, a national project run by Invisible Fence.

“Our goal is to get to all the local fire departments,” said Invisible Fence Operations Manager Heather Micek. “We’d love to make sure everyone has them in case they need them.”

Micek’s dog, Odin, frequently serves as a model when Micek needs to demonstrate how the masks work. He stars in the video made by Ronhovde.

Paramedic Nick Zambryski helped spearhead the move to get the pet mask kits for the department after Micek mentioned the program to him. He sent an email to his superiors and got the ball rolling.

“The need is there,” he said. “We haven’t had a method to deliver oxygen.”

A couple of the department’s battalion chiefs had some pet masks, but they weren’t always accessible when needed. “We’ve always had a couple, but it’s buried in the back of the rigs,” he said.

Zambryski said he’s performed CPR on dogs twice during his career and believes the new masks will help firefighters save family pets suffering from smoke inhalation. He said the training on the proper way to perform pet CPR will also be helpful.

“With those things combined, I think we can give them a fighting chance,” he said. “Until now, we’ve never had the equipment.”

The new breathing masks will be kept in a bag in the same place on every engine so they can be found easily, he said. “It’s a small bag, so there’s plenty of room.”

Project Breathe started in 2008 in Knoxville, Tennessee, the headquarters of Invisible Fence, but soon spread across the country. The company has donated more than 22,000 masks to fire departments and first responders since then.

Micek said the Spokane Fire Department also has the masks and she is working to get them to Kootenai Fire and Rescue and other departments in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Local fire departments can contact Micek at (208) 664-9111 to get information on receiving donated pet oxygen masks.