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Connellsville Township VFD responds to fire, treats cat with special oxygen mask

| Thursday, July 18, 2013, 7:00 a.m.
Submitted
Connellsville Township Volunteer Fire Department responded to a small fire that caused smoke to fill a home along Buttermore Boulevard. The homeowner’s cat was inside. As a precaution, the firefighters used a new piece of equipment — oxygen masks shaped just for pets. Owner Tammy Mader (left) and an unidentified man help put the mask on the cat for the firemen. The cat appeared to like the apparatus, according to VFD Captain Kevin Karwatsky.

When Connellsville Township volunteer firefighters responded to a house fire this week, they found the fire out, a smoke-filled residence and the family's cat hiding in the structure.

Connellsville Township VFD Assistant Chief Rob Leiberger said the fire, which originated in the bathroom, was out when they arrived at approximately 8:18 p.m. Tuesday to the home of Tammy Mader at 1407 Buttermore Blvd. Mader reportedly arrived about the same time.

Firefighters then set up fans for smoke removal, and although no injuries were reported, came to the aid of a victim inside the house.

“Their cat was hiding in the house that was full of smoke,” Connellsville Township VFD Captain Kevin Karwatsky said.

The cat didn't appear to be in any serious danger, but there was concern because the cat was in the smoke-filled house and even had soot around its nostrils, he said.

Karwatsky used the Invisible Fence Brand Pet Oxygen Mask kit, which consists of three different-sized masks uniquely shaped to fit around a dog's or cat's mouth and nose. The masks are attached to oxygen like they would with a human, but there's also a guide about how much oxygen to use on a different animal.

“We put it to use for the first time that night,” Karwatsky said of the new piece of equipment, adding that he let the residents place the oxygen mask around the cat's face.

“I think it enjoyed the oxygen,” Karwatsky said. “The cat was licking the inside of the mask.”

Invisible Fence, which is a system to keep pets on a resident's property, started Project Breathe by providing one pet oxygen mask kit free to an interested fire department. To date, the company has donated more than 10,000 masks to fire stations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Karwatsky said he found out about the program after a friend sent him an email. He went on the website to learn more and submitted a request, which must have been lost in the system. He then discovered that Invisible Fence had a company in Greensburg and contacted them. The company gave the fire department a free kit.

“I thought this was a good thing,” Karwatsky said. “People look at their pets as children.”

On a personal note, Karwatsky said he highly encourages any and all fire departments to look into Project Breathe and apply for a kit.

“It costs you nothing but a little bit of time,” Karwatsky said. “It's another way to better serve the public.”

Leiberger said the cause of the fire remains unknown. A state police fire marshal will investigate.

He added that there was minor damage to the bathroom.

Visit the Invisible Fence website at www.invisiblefence.com/giving-back/project-breathe for more information on Project Breathe.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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