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Phoenix officials urging hiker safety as temperatures rise

PHOENIX — As the weather begins to warm up, more people will be getting out and getting active, which means more people out on the miles of hiking trails the Valley has to offer.

That has the Phoenix Fire Department and Phoenix Park Rangers stressing the need for safety.

“Even if it’s nice in the morning when they head out, it does warm up and it warms up quickly,” said Park Ranger Dan Gronseth. “We might have 40 degrees of temperature change in a day.”

The warmer temperatures make it easier for people to become fatigued or dehydrated, so Gronseth advised hikers to take some common-sense safety precaution before heading out on trails.

“(It’s) best to hike with good shoes — probably not new shoes but good shoes, comfortable shoes,” he said. “Probably want to wear a hat to provide shade…and sunscreen, even in the winter time.”

But most importantly, Gronseth said to always bring plenty of water.

“Even if you think rescue is only a few minutes away, it can take quite a bit of time for anybody to get to you,” he said. “So if you don’t have extra water, you think, ‘Oh, I’m only going to need a little bit of water…because I’m only going to be out for so long,’ well, if anything happens you might be out considerably longer.”

Gronseth also stressed the need for hikers to stay on posted trails and not to deviate.

“If you stay on the trails, we can find you easier,” he said. “We can get to you and get you out a whole lot easier than if you’re off trail.”

In 2011, 25-year-old hiker Clint McHale fell to his death at Camelback Mountain after hiking off the marked trail. Now his sister, Chelsey, has become a strong advocate of hiker safety and reiterated the advice given by city officials.

“The most difficult thing, (when) dealing with his death is the fact that it was so preventable,” she said. “It was such a preventable death.”

Last year Phoenix Fire crews responded to 164 mountain rescues, and McHale thinks many of those can be prevented with some forethought and preparation.

“I want people to think twice before you make the decision to go off trail, think about it first,” she said. “Know your limits and stay on the marked trails, and make sure you’re prepared with enough water.”