Arizona cities prep for another sweltering summer to prevent deaths

Following one of Arizona's deadliest and hottest summers, the Valley is gearing up for another sweltering summer.

Cities, hospitals, and first responders are ramping up resources for the months ahead.

645 – that’s the number of people who died from heat-related deaths in Maricopa County last summer.

That's 52% higher than the year before, and the most recorded in history. This summer, medical professionals are trying to prevent that from happening again.

Thousands of pounds of ice, and dozens of cooling bags. Those are some of the most powerful tools for Phoenix Firefighters to fight fatal heat stroke on our city’s streets.

"We've used it almost every day for the last week. With the temperatures hitting 110 this week, I think we will probably use it two or three times a day," said Phoenix Fire Capt. Austin Moreland.

He says it’s all about increasing chances for survival.

"Every Phoenix Fire truck, every Phoenix ambulance have these coolers," he said.

Firefighters know the procedure. Take the patient, cover them in ice, and hoist them into an ambulance in under two minutes.

"We’ve been seeing a severe uptick in the past three years in cases of severe heat illness," said Dr. Paul Pugsley with Valleywise Health.

He says roughly 40% of these patients do not survive.

"We are seeing that heat is accompanied by some kind of substance abuse, where either alcohol or a drug is causing people to lie in the heat for longer than what they normally would," Capt. Moreland said.

It results in disorientation and an internal body temperature of 104 degrees or more.
There were 15 cases in 2021, and 54 in 2023.

That's a whopping 260% increase.

"We think that number is going to continue to rise here and in emergency departments across the Valley," Dr. Pugsley said.

Last summer saw the hottest and most fatal heat waves in city history.

With hot temperatures predicted again this season, the city is on alert.

In Peoria, cooling stations, like at the community center in downtown, are stocking up on water for those in need.


Heat-related deaths are increasing. Maricopa County's Chief Medical Examiner explains why

Temperatures are on the rise and so are heat-related deaths and the Maricopa County Chief Medical Examiner is explaining why.

"We did give out close to over 1,000 water bottles, and so we are hoping to have enough water to give that amount this year as well," said Maylee Acosta, community navigator for the city of Peoria.

First responders hope the preparation is enough to save lives.

"This is a serious and extreme problem for all of us," Dr. Pugsley said.

The city of Peoria needs more cooling centers and is calling on businesses and churches to take up the task.

They are taking bottled water donations too.

If you don’t have access to a cool environment or water, call 211 and a specialist will help you find relief from the heat.

Click here for a heat relief map.

Popular hiking trails intermittently close

Hiking trails like Camelback and Piestewa close for several hours during Excessive Heat Warnings to prevent medical emergencies.

The trails will be open to hikers on Excessive Heat Warning days before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.

Learn more about trail closures here.