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Phoenix Fire Department responds to four mountain rescues at Camelback Mountain

FILE Mountain Rescue at Camelback Mountain - Phoenix Fire Department.png
Posted at 4:24 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 19:24:14-04

PHOENIX — Not even 4 p.m. on Thursday and technical rescue crews with the Phoenix Fire Department have reportedly responded to their fourth mountain rescue of the day at Camelback Mountain to help distressed hikers who apparently underestimated the summer heat.

The rescues come two days after the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board voted to launch a test program set to begin on Friday, July 16, that would close Camelback Mountain -- both Cholla and Echo Canyon trailheads -- and the Piestewa Peak trailhead when the National Weather Service issues an Excessive Heat Watch.

An Excessive Heat Watch was not issued Thursday, but the temperature as of 3:51 p.m. at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was 102 degrees.

During one of the rescues, crews found a fit 33-year-old man at the top of Echo Canyon who was overheated and dehydrated, according to Captain Scott Douglas, spokesperson for the Phoenix Fire Department.

"When firefighters arrived at the young man they found him out of water and so weak he had to be flown off of the mountain using a helicopter and hoist operation," Captain Douglas said in an email.

That man was transported to the hospital. His current condition is unknown.

At another rescue, technical rescue crews responded to help a family of five, reportedly visiting from out of state, who had been hiking for several hours and became overheated and dehydrated on the trail.

Captain Douglas said crews brought water and medical equipment to assist the family down the mountain. A teenager had to be assisted down the mountain with a "Big Wheel" stretcher.

She was then transported to the hospital for further evaluation, he said. Her current condition is unknown.

Details on the other rescues were not released.

Every year, year-round, hundreds of people are rescued from hiking trails and mountains in Phoenix, especially during the summer months when temperatures often reach 100 degrees and hotter.

Despite signs warning hikers about the daytime heat, not having enough water, or not wearing the correct clothing, plenty of people still hit various trails day after day. Some end up needing to be rescued after becoming overheated, dehydrated, injured, or becoming lost.

The rescues, such as those at Camelback Mountain where the terrain is physically demanding for the rescue team, led to the Phoenix Firefighters Union to ask the Phoenix Parks Board to shut down some of the parks during extreme heat.

In a Facebook post, the union said a dozen firefighters had to be sent home due to heat-related issues while responding to various mountain rescues. Two firefighters had to be taken to the hospital, the union said.