ARIZONA NEWS

Phoenix firefighters hospitalized after mountain rescues in extreme heat

Jun 25, 2021, 4:55 AM | Updated: 11:08 am
(Phoenix Fire Department Photo)...
(Phoenix Fire Department Photo)
(Phoenix Fire Department Photo)

PHOENIX – The extreme heat in the Valley has taken a heavy toll on first responders.

During last week’s excessive heat warning, nine hikers were rescued off Camelback and Piestewa Peak mountains.

As a result, nearly a dozen Phoenix firefighters were sent home from their duties due to heat exhaustion.

Two of them were taken to the hospital by an ambulance driven by their fellow firefighters.

“They were sent home due to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and not being able to perform their duties appropriately,” Phoenix Fire Capt. Scott Douglas told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

The firefighters were said to be cramping and vomiting after performing two to three mountain rescues in a matter of hours at the beginning of their 24-hour shift.

Although technical rescue teams are often tasked with mountain rescues and can carry up to 50 pounds of gear up a mountain for a rescue, they are still responsible for other emergencies too.

“We do these rescues sometimes two to three times a day and throughout the course of their day they still have their shift to finish,” PJ Dean with the United Phoenix Firefighters said.

“They still have to go on the remainder of the calls, they could very well end up fighting fires and that sort of heat stress is very concerning because of the physical toll it takes on someone.”

The Phoenix Fire Department and other Valley fire agencies have worked hard to promote hiking safety with educational social media posts.

A campaign called “Take a Hike. Do it Right.” was launched by the Phoenix Fire and Parks and Recreation departments in 2015. The Glendale, Tempe and Scottsdale fire departments joined in the campaign this spring to encourage safety.

Despite their efforts, hikers continue to take on the challenge of hiking in the heat – putting both themselves and firefighters at risk.

After multiple mountain rescues early last week, the Phoenix Fire Department posted a public service announcement on social media asking hikers to be responsible and avoid hiking in extreme heat.

Phoenix Fire Captain Kenny Overton in the video said, “We’re always thinking about your safety, and we’re hoping you’re thinking about ours too.”

KTAR News reached out to the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board about their safety efforts during the extreme heat and if they would close trailheads.

A spokesperson for the department confirmed the Parks and Recreation Board has the authority to close and/or limit trail use during extreme weather conditions.

“We certainly are aware that there is a request from city council to maybe take a look at that, but again, we are always leading with education,” Gregg Bach, public information officer of the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, said.

Three people have reportedly died on hiking trails in Phoenix this year. One death has been confirmed to be heat-related.

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Phoenix firefighters hospitalized after mountain rescues in extreme heat