Phoenix fire crews describe most common calls they’re responding to during heat wave

The Phoenix Fire Department is seeing an increase in heat-related calls and we found out some of the biggest challenges for crews.
Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 8:44 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Friday marks the eighth day in a row with temperatures above 110 degrees, making for the hottest week of the year so far. Our team rode along with the Phoenix Fire Department to find out what calls they’re responding to when temperatures jump, and what they’re up against. This weekend Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountains will close from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. due to an excessive heat warning issued by the National Weather Service.

This weather is keeping Phoenix Fire busy. Fire Capt. Todd Keller says the closures have been beneficial to hikers and firefighters. “It was 25 to 30 firemen and women are going up for that one patient,” Keller said. “Multiple times we are finding additional patients when we go up the mountain. There’s been times last summer where we had crews go up two, three, even four times a single shift.”

While the mountains can be dangerous, Keller says there is one part of the Valley that is also hit hard and vulnerable. We rode along to downtown Phoenix where streets are lined with people living in tents. “In situations like this, they are in these tents and it’s actually hotter inside those tents,” Keller said.

And some are going to desperate measures. For example, the department has had multiple calls to pull people from the canal. In some cases, people are using it to cool off. But it’s something Keller highly discourages. “When you jump into the canal, that water moving on the top is a lot slower than the current underneath, which can swipe you away,” Keller said. “That is a technical rescue so we are going to be dispatching 20 to 30 firemen and women that are trained in that kind of incident.”

Keller is urging people to utilize the cooling stations across the city. It’s a safe and effective way to beat the heat. “Today, and this weekend we will see more heat-related emergencies,” Keller said. Keller says they do layer their resources and bring in more firefighters when temperatures are this hot to make sure their team is staying safe in the heat as well.