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Arizona mountain rescues more common, more technical as temperatures drop

With the improving weather, hundreds of people take to the mountains and trails in the Valley, and many end up getting themselves into trouble.

PHOENIX — Tourist season brings in revenue for Central and Southern Arizona, and it also brings in more work for the first responders that rescue wayward hikers. 

With the improving weather, hundreds of people take to the mountains and trails in the Valley, and many end up getting themselves into trouble.

In 2019, the Phoenix Fire Department performed more than 250 mountain rescues, and most of them took place between November and April. 

“It’s pretty much a numbers game when it comes to the increase in workload,” according to Phoenix Fire Capt. Evan Gammage. “Obviously when the weather gets better in Arizona we have more people out on the trails.”

RELATED: Lost hiker ignored rescuers' phone calls because it was an unknown number

The rescues are often more technical and sometimes more difficult as well, according to Gammage. 

Summer rescues usually revolve around heat exhaustion and dehydration. Dehydration still occurs during the cooler months, but injuries are more common at this time of year than heat exhaustion. 

Injuries mean more technical rescues. 

“We’ll typically have to deploy either our big wheel operations and/or deploy the firebird helicopters out to help us get the patient off the mountain if necessary,” Gammage said. 

Darkness can also be a factor. The sunsets earlier, and it can catch those new to the Valley off guard. 

In that case, Gammage said locating the hiker is difficult. Guiding him or her through the darkness is much easier. 

RELATED: Full autopsy released for Camelback hiker who died after Phoenix cop left her alone on trail

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