Each year, 500,000 pets are affected by fires, 40,000 die in house fires and unbelievably 1,000 house fires are started by pets. Here are tips from the San Diego Regional Fire Foundation to make sure your pets don’t start fires and can survive a fire.

1. Extinguish open flames such as candles, stove or fireplace. Pets are naturally curious and will investigate. Use flameless candles.
2. Pet-proof your home. Look for loose wires, extension cords, stove knobs and lamps that can get knocked over.
3. Secure young pets. Keep them away from where they can get trapped.
4. Have fire rescue window stickers to let firefighters know how many pets you have.
5. Have an escape plan. Pets will be terrified and go to where they feel safe, know those places.
6. Always evacuate your pets on a leash or in a pet carrier. Pets panic in fires and can get away.
7. Leave an outside door open, evacuate and then call your pet from outside.
8. Keep outdoor pet houses away from brushy areas.
9. Use smoke detectors to alert everybody and a monitoring service to alert firefighters.
10. When you are gone, keep pets near entrances with collars on and leashes nearby.

Your main priority should be getting yourself out. If you stay inside to help pets, you will jeopardize your and their safety. Firefighters will come into the building looking for you and will not help any pets until all people are evacuated. Once all people have evacuated, the firefighters will then look for pets, increasing their chances of survival. While it might be intuitive to stay and rescue your furry friends, the reality is that more pets get saved if you don’t try to save them yourself.

Once firefighters have rescued your pets, they will resuscitate them by providing oxygen through special pet masks. Human masks do not fit well on pets, but special pet masks exist in three sizes. However, not all fire departments have these pet masks.

The Emma Zen Foundation, with financial support from the San Diego Regional Fire Foundation, is providing pet masks to every fire engine in Southern California that needs a pet mask. Each set of masks costs $75. Tax deductible donations to purchase pet masks can be made to the San Diego Regional Fire Foundation at 2508 Historic Decatur Rd., Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92106.

www.sdfirefoundation.org