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Phoenix fire union makes plea to parks and rec board to shutdown trails during extreme heat

Posted at 6:35 PM, Jun 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-27 21:35:39-04

The Phoenix heat can be dangerous and deadly, but even when temperatures reach over 110 degrees, the city does not shut down hiking trails.

In what's being called an "unprecedented" move, the union that represents thousands of firefighters across the Valley is asking the city's Parks and Recreation Board to reconsider that policy.

P.J. Dean with the United Phoenix Firefighters Association says on June 16, crews did three mountain rescues two hours apart from one another. On that day, there was an excessive heat warning with temperatures reaching over 115 degrees. During that time, 12 firefighters had to be sent home early from their shift because of heat-related issues.

“Two of which of the 12 were hospitalized for acute renal failure. They were so dehydrated, they were so exhausted it was actually putting them into organ failure which can be a very quickly fatal situation," said Dean.

Dean says that is what prompted union representatives to attend a recent City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board meeting and make a plea to board members to shut down Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain on days when temperatures reach over 110 degrees.

"We've attempted awareness in the past and clearly that's not working," said Dean.

In a statement, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board tells ABC15 they are open to considering all options and are working to schedule a meeting in July so they can "receive information on trail usage, mountain rescues, impact of first responders and options to limit trail access during extreme heat." Adding, "The Board represents the entire community and a decision to put a policy in place to limit trail access needs to factor in feedback from all stakeholders."

Dean says in his 26 years as a Phoenix firefighter, this is the first time they have ever tried to intervene. He says this time, he believes it is a matter of life or death.

“For us to engage at the level that we have and ask for the things that we have is entirely unprecedented but that’s also predicated on the unprecedented events that we’ve experienced lately that are very concerning," Dean said. "We literally could have killed two of our members and the citizen we were trying to rescue because of the extreme temperatures."