Animal-friendly oxygen masks now in every station in Cambridgeshire

Fire crews gathered last night (Tuesday) for the final training session on how to use animal-friendly oxygen masks – marking an important milestone for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The training session, delivered by Firefighter Neil Hoskin to 13 on-call firefighters from both Papworth and Gamlingay fire stations, as well as station and area commanders from within the Service, now means that every fire station in Cambridgeshire now has a Smokey Paws animal oxygen mask and has been trained to use them.

Neil, 47, who lives in Crowland, Lincolnshire, took on the project just over a year ago in January 2016 and even extended his retirement date to complete it – delivering his final training session at Papworth Fire Station last night.

The Dogsthorpe firefighterspent his last year with the Tactical Delivery Group, responsible for training crews in the use of the animal-friendly oxygen masks, that were donated to CFRS after it teamed up with national not-for-profit organisation Smokey Paws.

The organisation provides the four-legged friendly first aid equipment to services across the UK and relies on donations and fundraising from individuals and organisations.  

Neil brought along his 5-year-old Husky, Lexie, to demonstrate to crews which restraints to use and how to put an animal mask onto a dog.

He also spoke about how to handle dangerous dogs and other animals as well as specific rescues he had been involved with.

The Smokey Paws masks come in kits, worth £90 each, and can be used for a variety of animals from small to large including pets such as hamsters, snakes, dogs and cats to larger animals such as sheep and horses.

Neil said prior to receiving the donations, firefighters had to use human oxygen masks which didn’t work as well and meant firefighters could get bitten by scared or aggressive animals when they came round.

“The benefit of having these masks is that it works better for the animals and helps to protect the firefighters too because if the animal comes round quicker than you expect then they act a bit like a muzzle, even though they are not designed to be used as a muzzle.”

He said masks are not just used in fires but in many other situations as well.

“They are not just for fires and smoke inhalation. They can be used to help revive an animal after blood loss, trauma, drowning, even heat exhaustion. All the reasons you would give oxygen to a human for, you would do the same for an animal.”

Lynn Carberry, Founder of Smokey Paws, said: “My husband and I started Smokey Paws to try and help fire services save pets. Where a human oxygen mask will give a pet around 10 per cent oxygen, these pet masks will give the pet 90 per cent oxygen.

“We were helped in our mission by great dedicated volunteers, like Neil, and members of the public to help us raise funds to donate the masks to Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service. We have enjoyed working with the Service and would like to thank them for their hard work and dedication to save every life they can.”