It’s one of the emergencies you try not to think about: your house engulfed in flames. Of course, your first concern is that everyone in the family has made their way safely out of danger. But what about your beloved pets who might be cowering in fear somewhere amid the flames, smoke and mayhem?

“In the past, I saw pet owners attempt to run back into a burning house to retrieve their family dog or cat,” says Wilton Fire Department Capt. Kevin Czarnecki. He says that scenario usually ends sadly, because owners were not permitted by firefighters to enter dangerous conditions or pets were overcome by smoke inhalation before rescuers could reach them.

But now there is a pet-size weapon in the fight against home fires: the pet oxygen mask. Czarnecki, who has worked with the Wilton Fire Department for 16 years and lives in Wilton, says the department now carries the masks on several of its trucks. “It comes in three sizes that hopefully accommodate most common house pets,” he says. With the possible exception of fish, small rodents and most lizards, the oxygen masks can help save the lives of most canine and feline pets by fitting over an animal's muzzle. The oxygen mask is then connected to an oxygen tank.

“Saving anyone, even a pet, all depends on how quickly you get there,” says Czarnecki, who hasn’t used any pet oxygen masks yet. “But it’s nice to know that we have them aboard the trucks." The Canine Fence Co. in Wilton donated more than 60 masks to firehouses throughout the state.

Does your home emergency action plan – assuming you have one – include your family pets? Let me know.