It's important to include any furry family members into an emergency plan if a fire ever occurs and they need to find a way out.
The Charlotte Fire Department established its K-9 program in May 2020 with its first K-9, Lady Katherine, or "Cat" as she's most often called. In October 2021, goldendoodle Phoenix was paired with Charlotte firefighter Matthew Wiatrowski.
Cat and Phoenix's roles with CFD are dual-purposed. The first is with community engagement and public education. As July 15 marks National Pet Fire Safety Day, the Charlotte Fire K-9 squad and their humans are sharing some expert advice to make sure pet owners are doing all they can to ensure pets get out safely in a fire.
"Cat is already learning how to stop, drop and roll, crawl low under smoke, go to a meeting place, and feel a door for heat," side Charlotte Fire Inspector Richard Dunton. "These are all skills we want people to know in case of a fire and having Cat able to demonstrate these skills with our younger audience will help them remember the things we're there to teach."
Phoenix and Cat are also used as therapy dogs.
Last month, Phoenix was the first in line to assist a boy during Camp Hornet's Nest, which is a free CFD summer camp for boys in grades nine to 12.
"As part of the program, the boys were going to climb a 105-foot ladder truck and he was very nervous," Wiatrowski said. "Phoenix was there when the child needed her the most."
Both dogs have been incredibly well received by the community, but the underscored purpose of is aimed at stress reduction and behavioral well-being.
The third member of the Charlotte Fire K-9 team is Captain. A 2-year-old English black Labrador retriever, Captain is trained to detect a variety of liquids that can be used to initiate a fire.
Partnered with fire investigator Thomas Goforth, Captain, nicknamed "Captain America" is a joyful dog with a lot of love.
"He never leaves my side. Whether it's walking around the house, walking around the office, he's always there and a wonderful partner to have around," Goforth said. "The fire service has stressful days, and he's been right here with me. Good days and bad days."
Millions of people have very special bonds with their pets, and Charlotte Fire has some tips to help plan in the event of a fire:
Create an emergency plan that includes your pet.
Practice this plan with the whole household so everyone knows whose job it is to grab the pet and whose job it is to grab the emergency supplies.
Act quickly when searching for the pet. Know where they like to hide and how to get them out of that hiding spot quickly.
Households unable to quickly retrieve a pet at the time of a fire, should put a decal or sticker in a front window of the house indicating the number and type of pets in the house. This will cut down the time firefighters spend searching for pets.
Keep a dog leash near the front door so it can be quickly grabbed in the event of an evacuation. A fire is a chaotic and scary experience, and a dog might be tempted to run amid the commotion.
Make sure contact information on a pet's collar and its
microchip are up to date in case they escape.
Monitored smoke detectors can offer early escape for pets, with a monitoring center being alerted even if people are not home. This will trigger immediate help and increase the likelihood of pets being rescued before the fire spreads.
Each year, more than 500,000 pets are affected by house fires, with 1,000 house fires started by pets themselves. Pets are naturally curious, and won't hesitate to investigate candles or the fireplace, not understanding the consequences of getting too close.
Open flame exposure is one of the most common ways that a pet may accidentally start a fire in a home. Never leave pets unattended around open flames, and double check to ensure flames have been fully extinguished before leaving the house with pets inside.
Additionally, putting covers over stove knobs or removing the knobs, and discouraging climbing in the kitchen can help prevent pets from bumping up against a dial and accidentally filling the house with gas.
A fire is an extremely stressful experience but following these tips in honor of National Pet Fire Safety Day can help ease the worry about pets in the case of an emergency.
Preparation and planning are key to ensuring that pets escape or are successfully rescued.