GREENSBURG — Four sets of respirator masks have been purchased for local firefighting personnel to use in the event of first responder pet emergencies: two for the Greensburg Fire Department and two for the Washington Township Fire Department.

If there’s anywhere one should feel comfortable in the event of an emergency, it’s in Greensburg. Very committed and well-trained first responders demonstrate their compassion and know-how time and time again, and now pets are being provided for in their work as well.

Eleven year veteran of firefighting Curtis Lewis explained.

“We’ll use them to aid or restore breathing for animals involved in house fires or automobile accidents - to keep their bodies oxygenated in the case of an emergency,” said Lewis. “They’re high-flow, which is 15 liters, and they’re designed to cover the nose and mouth of animals.”

Surprisingly, there are no lessons involved in learning how to administer life-saving oxygen to a pet dog or cat.

“It’s the same for humans, but we’ll each do a little hands-on training on shift so that we all have experience,” Lewis explained. “And there are three sizes - one for cats or small pups, one for medium breeds and the largest for German Shepherds or larger types of dogs.”

“In my 11 years on the force, I’ve seen probably half-a-dozen opportunities where we could have used these,” Lewis continued. “And we can use them in MVAs (motor-vehicle accidents) as well.”

Lewis relayed a recent experience in which there was a human entrapment and the pet dog was entrapped as well.

“The car was crushed, and you can tell that the dog was having some issues breathing, so we could have used them in that instance as well,” he explained.

“How many times do you see a dog in the front seat with the driver? In an accident, the dog will be injured as well,” Lewis said.

Fire Chief Steve Garrett shared a story of an instance when two dogs were rescued from a burning home while he was on watch.

“They were golden retrievers, and no one was at home. We administered air and CPR, but only one of them was saved,” he explained.

“Back then, we didn’t have that kind of equipment, and that bothers me that one passed. If we’d had something like this, I wonder if the outcome might have been better for both of them,” Garrett said.

And of course, there are times when the animals’ fates are strangely directed.

“In the recent fire behind the firehouse here, as we were putting out the fire, we came upon two dogs that were already lost. But we were back that evening — it was one of the coldest days of the year — and we found a third dog that had been hiding in a closet in a back bedroom under a pile of debris and that one lived,” Garrett explained.

“The doors were shut on that room. That’s why we always say ‘close before you doze,’ because the door being shut on that room is what saved that dog,” Lewis added.

“We brought it into the department that night and we called the vet - we didn’t care - we wanted to save the dog,” said Garrett.

Lewis’s dog, Macy, a rescue, was “his daughter before his real daughter came along,” he said.

“We were married for 10 years before we had our daughter, but we’re very close to our animals as well,” he finished.

Garrett has three dogs as well, all rescues. He has two chihuahuas and a Jack Russell mix.

“And a lot of fire departments are starting to get this equipment as well,” Lewis finished.

“People who don’t have dogs don’t understand. We love them like our children,” Garrett said.

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-3111, ext. 7011 or email bill.rethlake@greensburgdailynews.com