Nick Harrison, a Brownwood native who works for the Texas A&M Forest Service, said he’s received enough gifts in his life.
Rather than exchanging Christmas gifts with his two sisters, Harrison said, the siblings donate to various organizations including a California-based foundation that provides pet oxygen masks to fire departments and other first responders.
The Brownwood Fire Department accepted a donation Tuesday morning of three of the kits thanks to a donation from Nick and his wife, Kay, who live in Benbrook. Their donation to the Emma Zen Foundation of Anaheim, Calif. provided the three pet oxygen mask kits to the Brownwood department.
Harrison was accompanied by his mother, Joyce, and one of his sisters, Pene Harrison (short for Penelope), who lives in Colorado. Pene and another sister, Sarah Harrison, also of Colorado, had made donations that provided two of the kits to the Brenbook Fire Department.
Brownwood Fire Chief Del Albright, Fire Marshal Buddy Preston and Nika, the fire department’s arson dog and Preston’s partner, accepted the kits from the Harrison family representatives.
Firefighters can use the pet oxygen masks on pets who sustain smoke inhalation or other respiration-related problems in a fire. Otherwise, firefighters who try to revive a pet have to rely on equipment designed for humans — and it doesn’t work very well on a dog or cat, Albright said.
“Several months ago, we lost several dogs in a fire,” Albright said. “There was one we tried to revive on scene. From time to time these fires will have pets involved. Pets are like family members. It’s a major deal for the family and especially the children.
“Most of us are animal lovers and we hate to see the end of a life. That’s our business, saving lives. They’re not humans but it is a life that we cherish, that we’ll try to save. They’re definitely on our list to get out of the house.”
The pet oxygen masks will be more efficient for use on the animals and will give the pets a better chance of survival, Albright said. “We will make efforts, absolutely, to save pets,” Albright said. “This will help us out.”
In November, a fire caused by an electrical malfunction destroyed a small home in Brownwood and killed six dogs. Last February, a heat lamp in a doghouse caused a fire that left a home near Early a total loss and killed a dog. After firefighters had the fire out, a firefighter emerged from the home carrying the body of a small dog, which he placed on the ground. Other firefighters knelt by the dog and administered air from an air pack in an unsuccessful attempt to revive it.
Nick Harrison is the statewide firewise coordinator for Texas A&M Forest Service. Firewise is a national fire prevention program that pertains to wildfires.
“I checked with the (Brownwood) chief and the fire marshal to see if Brownwood had any (pet oxygen masks),” Harrison said. “They didn’t. They felt they had a need and so we specifically donated to make sure Brownwood Fire Department got these masks.”
Harrison said he donated the kits in honor of his parents and his sisters.
“You hope they never have to use (the masks), but as the chief said, pets are an extension of your family,” Harrison said. “It’s another way to give back to the community.”
A California woman named Debra Jo Chiapuzio began the Emma Zen Foundation after rescuing a dog she named Emma Zen in 2007. The dog had been displaced by a wildfire, the foundation’s website states.