Steamboat resident gives animal oxygen masks to Steamboat firefighters |

Steamboat resident gives animal oxygen masks to Steamboat firefighters

Steamboat resident Mindy Falzarano holds one of the animal oxygen masks she recently donated to Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue. Also pictured are Lt. Michael Arce, left, firefighter Scott Hetrick and Everest the dog.

— Thanks to the generosity of a local animal lover, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters now are carrying equipment that could help save the lives of the community's four-legged friends.

Longtime Steamboat resident Mindy Falzarano has donated two $70 animal oxygen mask kits to the fire department.

"Being the animal lover I am, I just wanted to do this for the fire department," she said.

Inside each of the kits are three masks of different sizes that are designed to fit over the snouts or mouths of a variety of animals. Lt. Michael Arce said the masks firefighters use on human patients are not designed for animal noses and mouths.

"Ours are flat, they have snouts," Arce said.

Using the masks, firefighters can feed a steady stream of oxygen to the sick animal or hook the mask up to a ventilation bag to force air into the animal's lungs.

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"I've been wanting to do this for a while," Falzarano said. "It's been in the news a lot the past couple of years."

There have been reports of the masks being used to save the lives of animals across the country.

Dogs often are helpless in fires, and one died Wednesday in a house fire on Conestoga Circle in Steamboat.

"They can't open the door and let themselves out," Falzarano said.

Arce said that the new masks would not have helped that dog but that there are instances when they would have been used in the past. In July 2010, a room with a caged dog caught fire at Rabbit Ears Motel. Firefighters found the dog after the fire was out, and it survived.

"That dog actually did pretty well, but he could have used some oxygen," Arce said.

Arce said the donated equipment is a nice addition for the fire department, which serves an animal-friendly community but has to focus on saving human lives.

"With the budget the way it is, we have to very much concentrate on our primary responsibilities," Arce said.

An instructional DVD that came with the masks will help train the firefighters on using them.

"It will be just like any other piece of equipment we get," Arce said. "We'll all train on it."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email

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