Valley firefighters rescue four hikers in four hours on Monday

Posted at 6:24 PM, Mar 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-07 11:15:20-05

With the temperatures rising and more visitors in town, local search and rescue crews are prepared to hit the mountains in search of stranded hikers.

If this last week is any indication, it's the start of a busy season. In Phoenix, Fire Captain Rob McDade said his department’s tactical rescue teams responded to 274 hikers stuck in the mountains in 2016.

"It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when they're going to happen," said McDade.

On Monday, there were four hikers stuck in four hours across the Valley. Crews were still in the middle of one call, when the next one came in.

The calls for help started coming in just before 9 a.m. A man in his 40s was hiking in the Echo Canyon area of Camelback Mountain when he blew out his knee. Crews hiked up, strapped him to themselves and helped him down to flatter ground, where a helicopter was waiting to take him to a nearby hospital.

A few short minutes later, crews got a call from Papago Park, where a 62-year old woman was stuck on a steep ledge at Papago Buttes. McDade said in talking to her, they learned she was a local woman and familiar with the trails.

"Maybe her comfort zone was a detriment to her, she felt ‘I'll pick up the next trail,’" said McDade.

He reminded hikers that even if they were seasoned out on the trails, if they found themselves going off a trail, to stop and turn around.

"Make sure you're ready for the mountain. The mountain is unforgiving," said McDade.

 The woman was strapped onto ropes and a harness and lowered to safety.

McDade said rescue crews were familiar with that area, as they had trained there before.

"When the technical rescue teams are not out rescuing, on their shift time, they're out here training all the time," he added.

While he was unable to give us a dollar amount on what all of these search and rescues are costing taxpayers, one firefighter said every time they put the chopper up to rescue someone it cost about $3,000. The helicopter had been airborne several times over the weekend and again Monday.

“It is very taxing on the resources we have, we are glad we're able to provide the service, as we train on these mountains, we are ready for any rescue, but you can't ignore the fact that we've had an uptick in the last year or two," said McDade.

He said when planning for a hike, preparation is a hiker’s best friend. Make sure you know your route, and your limitations, and he advised taking a friend.

Just after 11 a.m. a man in his 20s was rescued off South Mountain with a shoulder injury.  Then just before 1 p.m. another man in his 20s needed help on A Mountain. He told ABC15 he did not eat or drink anything before going hiking.

"We always encourage people to stay hydrated and stay on the trail," said Tempe fire deputy chief Darrell Duty.

"If it's a little too steep for you, beyond you experience level there's no shame in turning around and going back down the mountain," he added.

No life-threatening injuries were reported by any of the stranded hikers on Monday.