The McPherson Fire Department will have an easier time reviving dogs and cats that have suffered smoke inhalation, thanks to the donation of a pet oxygen mask kit from Invisible Fence of Central Kansas.

"Unfortunately, we run across a lot of pets in structure fires," said Deputy Fire Chief T.J. Wyssmann.

Wyssmann estimated firefighters rescue between 10 and 15 pets each year.

"When we have structure fires, that's one of our main concerns," Wyssmann said. McPherson Fire Department Executive Assistant Chris Bruton sent in the request for a pet oxygen mask kit, which was given to the department last week and is now ready for use.

"Before, we just held a human rebreather and applied oxygen that way," Wyssman said.

The pet oxygen mask kit will allow firefighters to apply better oxygen delivery to the animals' noses with varying sizes of masks.

"There's a small, medium and large for different breeds of animals," Wyssmann explained.

The pet oxygen mask kit also comes with a leash.

"We actually have a nationwide program through our parent company," explained Beth Ericson, owner of Invisible Fence of Central Kansas.

The program, called Project Breathe, offers pet oxygen mask kits to fire departments across the country.

"We're passionate about pet safety," Ericson said. "It's something that is really a privilege to participate in."

Fire safety is a cause that is meaningful to Ericson.

"Our office actually burned down last year, so we have a healthy appreciation for firefighters," Ericson said.

Wyssmann said firefighters are trained to perform multiple sweeps of a burning structure to ensure that people and their pets get out as quickly as possible.

"If you can't get pets out, the best thing you can do is get yourself out and do not reenter the structure," Wyssmann said. "We can get those pets, usually, pretty quick."

After leaving, tell firefighters which door is normally used to let your pet out for them to go to the bathroom, as that is where they typically go when they want to get out.

"Your pets are creatures of habit, and knowing their habits will aid you," Wyssmann said.

Families should prepare an escape plan in case of a fire.

The Kansas Fire Marshal offers these tips for preparing a fire escape plan:

— Draw a floor plan for each floor of your home, including windows and doors. For each room, find two ways out and label them on your plan.

— Designate one adult to help get babies, young children or family members who need extra help out safely. Have a back-up plan in case the primary person is overcome by smoke, or is not home. 

— Decide on a safe meeting place for your family.

— Test your smoke alarms once a month, and make sure your child can recognize the sound. 

— Teach your child to get low and crawl on the ground, where the air is less smoky. 

— Show your child how to use the back of his hand to check doors for heat before opening. Teach them to use a different way out if the door is hot to the touch. 

— If your child needs to use an escape ladder, show him where you keep it, and how to use it.

— Children can become scared and confused during emergencies, so teach them to never hide from firefighters. 

— Teach children to never go back inside a burning building.

— Explain that if they do catch fire, they need to stop, drop and roll.

— Practice your fire escape plan twice a year. Fires can start anywhere in the home and at any time, so run through the plan at different times of the day or night and practice different ways out. 

— Use a stopwatch to time how fast everyone can get out and to the specified meeting place. The goal should be under two minutes. 

For more information about Project Breathe, visit

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.