Pet rescueA pet oxygen mask has been used for the first time in Shropshire to revive a cat in a house fire.

Harriet, a 15-year-old tortoiseshell tabby, had fled to a bedroom as smoke from a kitchen fire filled the house in Diksmuide Drive, Ellesmere.

Householder Shelley Hall had managed to rescue her two dogs and a Chinchilla, slumped in its cage, before escaping from the blaze which is believed to have started when clothes were put onto an electric cooker plate – later turned on by the cat.

A total of eight firefighters from Ellesmere and a second appliance from Oswestry attended the scene after Shelley made the 999 call.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus put out the blaze which totally destroyed the kitchen before searching the smoke filled semi detached home to find the ailing cat in a bedroom.

Ellesmere Watch Manager Steve Moorhouse said: “The cat was very poorly when we brought her out but quite perky after we had used the pet oxygen mask.”

It was the first time that a specially designed oxygen mask had been used to save an animal in Shropshire. A campaign was held earlier this year to raise funds to buy enough pet oxygen masks so that they are available for all 23 county fire stations.

Shelley (36), station manager at Shrewsbury railway station, who lived at the property with partner Steve Downes, said she believed the cat had slid down off the ironing pile and accidentally turned on the cooker.

“I had just moved the ironing off the work surface onto the hob to get some cheese and crackers and went upstairs. The next thing I knew the house was on fire and after I got the two dogs and a Chinchilla out I realised the cat was probably upstairs but I couldn’t go back in because of the severe smoke.

“When the firefighters brought Harriet out, she didn’t look good. She was panting heavily and her tongue was hanging out. But now she is perfectly fine if a bit smelly from smoke. I’m very grateful to the firefighters for saving her.”

Fundraising for the pet mask that revived Harriet the cat began with a charity walk in Ellesmere organised by Fred Brown, of Hectors Greyhound Rescue.

He said: “I am really chuffed to hear that the oxygen mask has helped an animal. It makes it all worthwhile. I hope the cat makes a full recovery. A big thank you to all those who donated.”

Dogs, cats and other small animals including hamsters and pet birds caught up in fires were previously revived by firefighters using oxygen masks designed for humans.

But pet sized masks, costing up to £90, are made in three sizes and fit an animal’s snout better than a human oxygen mask to give a better chance of survival, said Brian Lockyear, who set up Smokey Paws with his wife to raise funds to ensure every UK fire appliance carries one.

“It is good news like this that drives us on to complete our mission of getting a set of these specialist masks on every fire engine across the UK."