MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. - A hiker died and several others were rescued after suffering from heat exhaustion on a Cave Creek-area trail, Scottsdale fire crews said.
Just before 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 5, deputies and firefighters responded to reports of hikers experiencing heat exhaustion at the Spur Cross Trailhead.
The hikers reportedly ran out of water halfway through their hike.
The greater Phoenix area was under an Excessive Heat Warning that lasted until Sept. 7. Phoenix reached a high of 109 degrees on Monday, which the National Weather Service says is six degrees above normal for this time of year.
Hiker who died identified; widow speaks out
The Scottsdale Fire Department says the hiker who succumbed to heat exhaustion was 32-year-old Dr. Evan Dishion, a neurology resident at Barrow Neurological Institute.
Barrow Neurological Institute released a statement on Dishion's passing, saying in part, "We are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Dr. Evan Dishion. Dr. Dishion was a bright and gifted physician who had recently begun his first year as a neurology resident at Barrow Neurological Institute. He was a kind and generous person."
On Sept. 7, we spoke with Dishion's widow, Amy.
"Being a dad was the highlight of his life," said Amy.
For Amy, everything changed for her and her family when Dishion went on a Labor Day hike with his friends.
"I felt so guilty that he hadn't had guy time since Chloe was born, so I just asked if he could please turn around once it got hot," Amy said, recounting that fateful day.
The group of six, including Dishion, reportedly went to Spur Cross Trailhead shortly before 7:00 a.m., and as the hours passed, Amy got more and more worried.
"I just wanted to check in, so I asked how thing were going, and he just said it's hot. That's all he said," said Amy.
Amy tried to contact her husband and his friends several more times, but that text message was the last she would ever receive from her husband.
"Around 4:30, I got a call from Cave Creek Hospital, letting me know he had passed," Amy recounted. "I started to scream and scream and scream and scream, and I was just screaming 'Help me he's dead. Help me he's dead,' and then I collapsed out on the back patio. I was still conscious, but it was as if my mind and body completely shut down."
Besides Amy, Dishion leaves behind a three-month-old child.
A GoFundMe has been set up for Dishion: https://gofund.me/ff0efe12
Spur Cross trail rescue of hikers on Sept. 5. Photo by the Scottsdale Fire Department
"With extreme heat days, people have to start super early in the morning," says Scottsdale Fire Capt. Dave Folio. "You have to have a lot of water and hydrate the night before."
He says once you're halfway finished with the water you brought on your hike, you need to turn around and head back to the trailhead.
"We’ve been responding a lot because of the extreme heat," Folio said. "People aren’t paying attention to the extreme heat."
Helicopters are becoming all too common in rescues – something Folio says is high risk.
"For us to put six or seven crews on the trail like we did yesterday, now we’re asking a lot from our firefighters. Now we have to worry about getting them off the trail while they are rescuing hikers off the trail," he said.
Even firefighters are told to stay indoors, hydrate, and avoid strenuous outdoor activities when the temperatures reach 105 degrees or higher.
'Our number one call …'
"It's probably our number one call … hikers in distress or injured," says MCSO Deputy and helicopter pilot Terry Heimgartner.
A medic who was in the helicopter for the rescues says it was a big undertaking.
"With one rescue with MCSO so far, that was the most I’ve had to deal with," said medic Shawn O'Meara.
The crew says these types of rescues are dangerous for everyone involved, and it puts first responders at high risk in extreme heat.
"When you have two people in the back, plus me, we only have two seats back here, so it can get a little cramped," O'Meara said.
Temperatures over 118 degrees will ground their helicopters. Anything just under that will take a toll on their rescues.
"The hotter it is, you can’t lift as much. We have to use less fuel, or you can’t put as many people inside the helicopter," Heimgartner explained.
They say in the last month, they've responded to more than a dozen calls, which is almost a call every other day.
A day following the rescue at Spur Cross, they were practicing their helicopter rescue skills. On board is a pilot, a tactical flight officer, and a new addition – a medic with the National Guard.
"We can provide higher quality care now with having a paramedic on board," Heimgartner says. Governor Doug Ducey deployed the medics across the state in 2021.
O'Meara explains the ways he can help save a life from the sky.
"I have some cold packs I can give them, I can start IVs and give cold fluids. If they are feeling nauseous I have medicine and stuff for that as well," O'Meara said.
The best advice to avoid needing these guys and being rescued is to take precautions.
Other advice they say is to wear bright colors and tell someone your hiking route and when you will be back.
If you do need rescuing, it’s no additional cost to you because it comes out of the state rescue fund which is paid for by taxpayers.
The following heat safety information was provided by the Scottsdale Fire Department.
What are Heat Emergencies?
Heat Cramps: Profuse sweating, fatigue, extreme thirst, muscle cramps
Heat Exhaustion: Headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea/vomit, Cool/moist skin
Heat Stroke: Elevated temp. +103degrees, confusion/irrational behavior, dry/hot skin, rapid shallow breathing, rapid weak pulse (shock), seizures, unconscious
What to do
- Get person into shade or cool location
- Cool person with cool, wet cloths (neck, groin, armpits, head) and fan body
- Sip cool water if person is alert
- For muscle cramps, massage muscles gently, but firmly until relaxed
- *If symptoms worsen, call 911
What not to do
- Do not give anything by mouth if person is vomiting, unable to swallow or unconscious
- Do not underestimate the seriousness of a heat emergency
- Prevention/Preparation for hike/exercise in heat
Know your limitations
- Hydrate (begins day prior to hike/exercise, hour before hike, during and after)
- Wear proper clothing, lightweight and light color, protect head, proper shoes
- Always carry a cell phone and best to hike with company
- Always tell someone where you are hiking and when to plan to return