Our pets are like family to most of us. If a fire breaks out when they're left at home, we want to make sure they can get out safely. In fact, half a million pets are affected by home fires every year, but there are steps you can take to help keep your four-legged family members safe. Pet proof your home. Curious pets could knock over a candle and accidentally start a fire, so keep them away from any open flames. Keeping your pet in a kennel could restrain him in a fire, so if you need to cage your pooch, put the kennel near a door so firefighters can easily find him. Putting a sticker on the window with the number of pets inside your home saves rescuers time when locating your pets, but don't forget to update the information if that number changes. "Firefighters have to make a decision," said Brunswick County Deputy Emergency Services Director Scott Garner. "Every time there's a fire, they make a life or death decision. They're going to search the home and look for every occupant they can find. Of course the human occupant is the highest priority. That human life is the highest priority for us, but a pet's life is just as important and we'll search for them as well." Firefighters and EMS workers in New Hanover and Brunswick Counties are equipped with pet oxygen masks to help dogs, cats and even birds breathe after they're rescued. Emergency workers say more often than not, pets try to find a way out of a fire on their own. But if they do get scared and hide, taking steps to pet-proof your home and keep firefighters informed may help bring your four-legged friend to safety.
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