Maricopa County investigating dozens of possible heat deaths as Valley endures scorching heat

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- The heat is officially to blame for the deaths of three people in Maricopa County so far in 2019, and more than three dozen deaths currently under investigation could be tied to the Valley's heat.

On Monday night, Phoenix Police detectives were called to investigate the death of a homeless man near 19th Avenue and Indian School, and early indications point to the man dying under the extreme heat.

During the last seven days, the highs ranged from 109°F to 115°F, and evening lows have hovered around 100°F.

In 2018, Maricopa County saw a record number of people dying because of extreme heat, with the death toll standing at 182, the highest number the county has ever experienced, and emergency rooms are seeing a surge of patients suffering from heat illness.

"We've had a patiently recently, her core temperature was 108°F," said Dr. Dan Quan with the Maricopa County Integrated Health System. "They were found down outside, and if it's not brought down to a reasonable temperature at some point, the body does shut down, and organ failure does occur."

In Maricopa County, heat deaths first spiked in 2016, with the tally nearly doubling the average. Since then, the number of deaths kept rising.

"In general, it seems like our summers seem to be a little bit hotter," said Dr. Quan.

This year, the Valley had a mild spring and start to the summer, but the temps shot up quickly, and so have the number of people who have gotten burned or sick because of the searing environment. According to statistics collected by the Maricopa County Health Department, the majority of those who suffer heat illness are men, between the ages of 50 and 64.

"In the burn center, we probably see about 10 patients who have been burned per day and field 10-20 calls per day for burns, and in the emergency department, we've been seeing anywhere from 10-20 heat illnesses per day."

Health officials say, when it's this hot outdoors, people need to limit the time they spend in direct sunlight, drink lots of water, and take frequent breaks. Once they start feeling dizzy, confused, or start vomiting, they should get to the hospital right away, as those are symptoms of heatstroke.