MOULTRIE, Ga. -- Dawn Blanton, City of Moultrie human resources and payroll clerk, has lost her house in a fire before. When it first started, she thought about getting her kids and her five pets -- her family -- out the house. 

But as they were trying to get out, Blanton couldn’t find one of her pets. They eventually found him and got him out, but the worry was almost traumatizing.

“That’s a scary feeling when you think you’re losing your pet,” she said. “A lot of people look at their pet not just as a pet, that’s their family.”

So, now that the Moultrie Fire Department received a donation of four pet-sized oxygen mask kits, pets and their owners will be able breathe easily as they escape fires in the future.

The MFD announced the kits‘ arrival on June 30 from Invisible Fence of Southwest Georgia’s Project Breathe. The company’s dealer, Jake Anderson, said it's an outreach program donating these kits to first responders.

“Invisible Fence recognizes situations where fire departments respond to fires and dogs are in the house exposed to smoke,” Anderson said.

It’s all about creating a resource that saves a dog’s or cat’s life. These kits were dispersed among the MFD’s four frontline trucks. They include three mask sizes -- large, medium, small -- a tube to fit them and an instruction manual.

The MFD found out about the masks through Blanton, who had the thought of procuring the masks after an incident happened back in October 2019.

Usually, Blanton and some firefighters head down to the local Humane Society once a month for an adoption photo op. This time a woman came in with a litter of puppies she wanted to give away, two of which were sick -- one more so than the other.

Fortunately the fire department was on the scene already.

“They had their oxygen tank with them but they didn’t have a mask or anything,” Blanton said. “They did what they always do and they picked up a red solo cup, punched a hole in the bottom of it and stuck their tube in it.”

Thus making a pet-sized face mask. Blanton asked, “That’s all you all have?” and the firefighters confirmed. There had to be something out there, Blanton said, and there was.

She researched and stumbled upon Project Breathe, eventually contacting them and starting the process with Anderson.

“He and I have been speaking since October, but then COVID happened,” Blanton said referencing the virus causing a late delivery. “When you see that first-hand, you know you have to get something better than that.”

Lt. Bo Sprunger of the fire department said it’s normal to deal with pets when responding to a fire. In this case, it’s just growing with the times protecting their community

“The way citizens are about their pets, that’s their children,” he said. “They may not have kids and [their pet] is their kid, so we have to see after them and take care of them just like you would if it was a real child. To them, that is a real child.”

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