Pet-friendly oxygen masks become part of county's fire service

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Life-saving pet-friendly oxygen masks have been installed on every fire engine and at every fire station in a county to help animals survive blazes.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service is the UK's first fire service to roll out the masks across all of its 50-plus stations and 57 frontline engines, the organisation behind the project said.

Firefighters in the county took delivery of the first set of masks last November and since then they have been used repeatedly, including in helping treat 12 cats and four dogs in one emergency alone.

In other incidents, a horse received oxygen in Romney Marsh after a horse box was involved in a crash, and a Jack Russell trapped up to its neck in water under a metal grill drain received aid until it could be freed.

Members of the public, businesses, charities and the Duke of Kent have sponsored the masks - which cost £90 for a full reusable set - through not-for-profit organisation Smokey Paws.

Smokey Paws co-founder Brian Lockyer said: "We now have 400 sets of masks at 28 different fire services across the country, but Kent is the one fire service that has really run with the project.

"We have small masks for guinea pigs and snakes, medium ones for cats and small dogs and large ones which help big dogs and even horses. Every week they are being used to help save pets' lives."

Firefighters in Kent are also among the first in the country to receive enhanced pet resuscitation training, and a dog manikin is used to hone their pet-saving skills.

David Nolan, of Kent Fire and Rescue Service, urged people never to put themselves at risk by returning to their burning home to try to retrieve their pet.

Mr Nolan, who is the project lead, said: "We know just how important people's pets are to them and the risks they will take to rescue them."