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Phoenix firefighters sent home after hot rescues, ask hikers to think twice before hitting trails

Posted at 10:24 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 01:24:34-04

PHOENIX — After a week of mountain rescues that sent nearly one dozen firefighters home for health reasons, the Phoenix Fire Department is turning responsibility over to the very people they save.

On Monday, the Phoenix Fire Department rescued six hikers from Camelback and Piestewa Peak Mountains. Two days later, on Wednesday, three rescue calls were answered in extreme heat, resulting in the fire department sending nine firefighters home due to health reasons. Two of them ended up in the hospital, but have since been released.

"They weren't even halfway done with their shift," said Phoenix Fire Department Public Information Officer Todd Keller. "You’re putting yourself at risk and you’re also putting the technical rescue teams at risk."

Technical Rescue teams carry more than 25 pounds of gear up to a mountain to the hiker for every rescue.

"My task is to carry medical gear, that’s about another 25 pounds and a backpack that carrying up also," said Firefighters Adam Skiver. "Apart from hiking the mountain and doing mountain rescues we have to run on car accidents and house fires."

In an address on social media Thursday, the Phoenix fire department asked hikers to be responsible and avoid hiking in extreme heat.

"We encourage you to enjoy all the hikes that the City of Phoenix has to offer, but we also encourage you to think twice before hiking in triple-digit heat," said the Phoenix Fire Captain Kenny Overton. "We’re always thinking about your safety, and we’re hoping you’re thinking about ours too."

Still, with trail temperatures at Piestewa Peak exceeding 140 degrees, hikers were still showing up to climb, and even run, to the summit.

"I intentionally choose the hottest hours. That’s my thing," said Lee Thomason.

"[I] just like being outside no matter what time of year it is," said Scott Baarson. "They’re trained for it too. It’s just as likely someone getting hurt when the weather’s nice as when it’s not."

"Hiking the mountain multiple times a day, it takes a toll on the human body, it doesn’t matter who you are," said Skiver.

The Phoenix Fire hopes that a person’s need to hike in 1dangerous heat doesn’t lead to one of their own becomes seriously hurt, or worse.