As the weather warms, firefighters are asking hikers to be careful when hiking as mountain rescues are expected to increase in the coming months.
Although not all mountain rescues are due to heat-related incidents, hiking the trails is becoming increasingly difficult for rescue teams due to heavy equipment and remote locations that need to be accessed. at high temperatures.
According to the Phoenix Fire Department, more than 200 rescues are performed each year.
On Thursday morning, a woman in her 40s was rescued and airlifted from a Phoenix hiking trail after sustaining an injury.
The Phoenix Fire Department received reports of a woman with an ankle injury off the Piestewa Peak Trailhead at 7:29 a.m., according to department spokesperson Cpt. Evan Gammage.
A Firebird 10 aircraft was used to assist in the rescue. She was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, Gammage said.
Over the past weekend, two people were rescued from trails at Piestewa Peak and another from a trail at South Mountain. And according to press releases issued by the Phoenix Fire Department, at least 20 hikers had to be rescued in March.
Mountain rescues on the Piestewa Peak Trail at Piestewa Peak are not uncommon. In fact, it’s one of three hiking trails in the valley known for their short but steep and strenuous hikes – and their year-round popularity.
The other two trails are the Cholla and Echo Canyon trails at Camelback Mountain.
All three trails are risky for first responders due to their respective terrain and elevations. They were among “the hardest-to-access areas in Phoenix,” according to a Facebook statement shared in July by the United Phoenix Firefighters Association.
In July, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board adopted a temporary policy that restricted access to two popular hiking trails after 12 firefighters were sent home for heat-related issues after performing three consecutive rescues on both mountains. Two of the firefighters ended up being hospitalized with acute kidney failure due to dehydration and exhaustion.
In October, the board voted to permanently adopt the policy on Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak on days when extreme heat is expected.
The policy prohibits hikers from accessing the Echo Canyon and Cholla trails at Camelback Mountain, and all trails associated with Piestewa Peak in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days when the National Weather Service issues a weather warning. excessive heat.
When these specific trails close, the parking gates will be closed and signage will be posted nearby to inform hikers. Information about the closure will also be communicated via the department’s website, on social media accounts and to local hotels. Department guards will also be nearby to ensure that hikers do not access the area.
About 215 miles of trails in the Phoenix area would still be open to the public during those days.
Stay safe while hiking
According to Gammage, high temperatures and out-of-town visitors cause and make up the majority of rescues.
Locals tend to hike in the fall, while beginners who may not be aware of the potential heat hazard are more likely to hike in the warmer months, Gammage said.
In 2021, there were a total of 240 mountain rescues, according to data provided by the Phoenix Fire Department. January and July each had 30 mountain rescues, which is the highest number of mountain rescues seen in 2021, while November and December had just 11 rescues, the data showed.
In recent years, Phoenix Parks and Recreation has implemented safety guidelines as part of the Take A Hike, Do It Right campaign, which warns hikers to hike in the early morning and evening and to turn halfway. round before they have consumed half of their water.
Here are some tips when venturing out on the trails, according to Phoenix Parks and Recreation:
- Watch the weather: Yes, “it’s dry heat” – but Arizona’s temperature can be deceiving and deadly. Hike when it’s cool outside, try early morning and evening when there’s more shade.
- To be dressed correctly: Wear appropriate footwear, clothing, hat and sunscreen.
- Bring water: Hydrate before you go. Have plenty of water, more than you think you need. Turn around and head back to the trailhead before you drink half your water.
- To stay in contact: Bring a cell phone.
- Team up: Hike with others. If you are hiking solo, tell someone your start and end times and your location.
- Be honest: Do you have a medical condition? Asthma, heart problems, diabetes, knee or back problems? Don’t force yourself! (Even trained athletes have been caught off guard by becoming dehydrated on Arizona trails.)
- Don’t Trailblaze: Enjoy the beautiful, undeveloped landscape of the Sonoran Desert, but stay on designated trails.
- Take responsability: Don’t be “that person” – the one who was unprepared, shouldn’t have been there for health reasons, or ignored safety instructions. Be the responsible hiker, who hikes and does it well!
Republic reporters Perry Vandell and Salma Reyes contributed to this article.
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