A special donation from an 8-year-old student helped Westerville firefighters save a life last week.

A special donation from an 8-year-old student helped Westerville firefighters save a life last week.

On March 12, the Westerville Division of Fire responded to a structure fire at 5562 Madrid Drive after neighbors saw smoke coming from the building, according to Deputy Chief John Ross.

"When we got there, there was no one in the building, but neighbors told us that there were a few pets inside," Ross said.

He said when one of the firefighters carried a large body out of the house, he at first thought it was a person. A closer look showed that that the first-responder was carrying a large dog.

"I believe it was a mastiff," Ross said. "We were able to get our pet mask on the dog, and then get him into our kennel."

Westerville's fire division now carries breathing masks specifically designed for use on animals. The masks were donated a year ago by 8-year-old Alex Knipfer, a McVay Elementary School student who saved up his monthly allowance to buy them for the fire department.

"Basically, in the past, if we had an animal that was pulled out (of a fire), we'd blow oxygen through an adult mask or just a regular breathing tube," Ross said. "Luckily, we don't have very many fires in Westerville, but it's not uncommon for us to pull pets out when we do, and these masks are built to make a tighter seal around an animal's mouth, and also helps prevent the animal from biting."

Ross said two dogs were taken from the residence, but only the larger one needed attention. It was transported to Annehurst Veterinary Hospital.

"I've spoken to the folks at the hospital, and the dog's doing fine," Ross said.

He added that to his knowledge, this was the first time the fire division used the new breathing masks.

"This is the first time I've aware of," he said. "This one definitely made a difference We were able to get a lot more concentrated oxygen with this tool than we would have with a mask designed for humans."