Firefighters save family’s pets trapped in smoky home during house fire in Spring

A Spring family’s fur babies can breathe easy thanks to the firefighters who saved their lives Thursday morning.

Spring Fire Department’s Engine 73 was first on the scene of a house fire around 6:30 a.m. in the Greengate Place subdivision, said Engine 71 Apparatus Operator Michael Alaniz.

“It was a car fire in the garage extending to the house, so at that point, their focus was to extinguish that fire and prevent it from extending to the rest of the house,” Alaniz said. “(Engine) 74 followed soon after them…then we came in. Upon our arrival — Engine 71 and Rescue 71 a few minutes after us — the fire was mostly extinguished; just a lot of smoke and heat still.”

The homeowners, already safely outside with their dog, told firefighters that their cats were still in the bedroom. A crew of firefighters, including Alaniz, entered the home and searched the room.

“We were able to locate three of the four cats,” Alaniz said. “They were hiding under the bed, behind the dresser, of course scared of us because they don’t know what’s going on — traumatic for them I’m sure — and we were able to take them outside safely.”

Even after the fire was out, conditions inside the house were smoky, said Station 74 A Shift Captain Tim Weiman.

Alaniz said the cats were slightly lethargic when firefighters found them. The carcinogens in the air made it difficult to breathe, but they were still conscious and mobile.

“There was definitely some smoke inhalation on their part,” Alaniz said.

Upon the cats being brought outside, Engine 74 Apparatus Operator Mark Hutchison began administering oxygen to two of the felines using oxygen masks specially designed for pets. The Spring Fire Department carries the pet masks on all their engines and trucks, said Alaniz. The masks come in a few different sizes that fit over the entire muzzle of an animal’s face to provide supplemental oxygen after smoke inhalation.

“To give them pure oxygen helps them breathe a little better,” Hutchison said. “In this case, they weren’t in really bad shape, they were more distressed — a little bit of trouble breathing, but not too bad — so, it kind of helps them not only breathe better, but calms them down a little bit.”

The pet oxygen masks have proven successful in life-or-death smoke inhalations during previous fires, Alaniz said.

“On one scene — also with cats — we pulled I believe three cats out of a home,” Alaniz said. “They were all lethargic. All of them were limp when we pulled them out of the house. One of them passed, we weren’t able to save; but the two other ones, we supplied oxygen to them and we were able to revive them from being knocked-out unconscious to have them awake, breathing and walking around.”

Three of the four cats at Thursday morning’s house fire were safe outside with their owners. But one remained inside the home. Enter Station 74 Firefighter Charles Becker.

“We went in after the fire was out because they said they were still missing a cat,” Becker said.

One of the crew who entered the home with Becker was able to locate the fourth cat, which was hiding underneath a couch.

“Took us moving a couple couches before we found him and then he did not go willingly — he tried to run away from us quite a few times,” but finally, Becker said, “I was able to snag the cat” and returned him safely to his family.

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