To a firefighter, every life is precious, no matter how big or small, and they will pull out all the stops to bring the dying back from the brink. And, in this particular case, these heroes wowed the media with their dedication in rescuing two of the tiniest lives on an English farm.
On Monday, September 5, 2016, England’s Newton Abbot Fire Service (NAFS) posted on its Facebook page the story of a recent rescue. It seems that the NAFS had received a call about a fire at Hatherleigh Farm in Devon and rushed to the scene, with the assistance of local teams from the towns of Bovey Tracey and Mortonhampstead.
The fight for survival was already in motion as the fire crew made their way to the blaze. In fact, the farm’s 29-year-old owner, James Barter, had sprang immediately into action after discovering the fire.
Unfortunately, the barn was not empty. In fact, it was occupied by Barter’s farm dog Meg – and her five young puppies. So Barter had rushed into the blazing barn to save his furbabies and did what he could to control the fire with the equipment he had on hand.
“I ran there and got the puppies’ mother Meg out,” Barter told ITV news. “It was clear I would not be able to put the fire out, but I was able to control it with a pressure washer.” In fact, his quick thinking and resourcefulness meant all the difference when the fire crew arrived.
“I could see one of the puppies straight away. I heard another one squealing and found it against the wall… when the fire brigade arrived,” Barter told the media. Tragically, there were still some canine casualties.
As the puppies were only two days old, the smoke had quickly overpowered their little lungs. Sadly, three of the pups passed away during the fire. However, the fire teams quickly treated the two Barter had rescued with oxygen therapy, according to NAFS’ Facebook post.
Unfortunately, as the the Merck Veterinary Manual explains, “smoke inhalation caused by fires is a major cause of fatalities in animals.” It’s a combination of oxygen deprivation and toxic agents in the smoke that cause the deadly damage. And the smaller the animal, the quicker it succumbs to these effects.
“Smaller animals and in particular birds are usually more susceptible to inhaled toxicants, because of their greater respiratory minute volume per unit mass and relatively larger respiratory surface area per unit mass,” the manual explains. In other words, smaller animals actually intake more volume of air per minute compared to their overall body size than larger animals. Their lungs account for a greater proportion of their body size as well.
Thanks to oxygen masks made just for animals, then, NAFS was able to try to help the poor puppies. “The pictures show the puppies heads in the specially designed masks to cover their snout,” the team wrote. “This greatly increases the oxygen flow into their lungs.”
“Over the years we have rescued many pets from fires and tried to give oxygen to pets using our human masks,” the crew said. “However having a [purposely] built mask in three sizes for large and small dogs and a smaller one for cats will greatly enhance chances of survival.”
Indeed, the Sergivet Pet Oxygen Masks came just in the nick of time as part of a joint donation from the Smokey Paws charity and the KONG Company, a producer of pet products. In fact, the masks had arrived merely weeks before the barn fire.
As part of their community involvement, Smokey Paws, a not-for-profit charity, aims to get pet oxygen masks to every fire service station in the United Kingdom. In order to achieve this goal, then, the charity reaches out to businesses, such as the KONG Company, to help provide supplies.
In fact, when KONG delivered the masks to NAFS, the company did so in person. It explained that the amazing oxygen masks are easy to use and, like human masks, are important to have available at every rescue.
“Hannah Slater and Roger Peters, from KONG (pictured with Sooty and Max) came to the station to officially hand over the kit,” the fire crew’s Facebook post explained. “KONG has donated 20 kits recently to many fire stations across the country.”
In the case of the Hatherleigh Farm fire, though, one of the two puppies rescued from the flames needed more than just oxygen. Therefore, the fire service additionally treated its wounds with burn gel at the scene, and then both puppies were quickly sent to a veterinarian for medical treatment.
But despite the best efforts of the fire service and the veterinarians, only one puppy lived. The farm owner later named the pup Blaze as a tribute to its survival.
Understandably, even though NAFS said the fire was “believed to be accidental,” the loss of the pups hit Barter hard. “There were five in total – but just one has now survived,” the farm owner told ITV news. “I think of myself as fairly tough but I was pretty upset.”
However, thanks to the efforts of both NAFS and Barter, the puppy’s mother Meg was rescued safely and now she has one surviving puppy. Blaze is on the road to recovery, and the fire service can look forward to saving more animal lives with the oxygen masks they have on hand.
“We have only had this vital kit for a few weeks and it’s paid off already, and hopefully will save many more loved pets in the future,” the station crew wrote on Facebook. “We mention enhancing public safety, one of our service goals. However, we also need to take care of much loved family pets.”