Maricopa County sees rise in heat-related deaths; activists say homeless most at-risk
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Community activists say more people are living outdoors unprotected in this extreme heat has been a major factor in the rise in heat-related deaths this summer. Maricopa County reports 111 deaths this year, compared to 81 last year, and shows 80% of the deaths are happening outside.
“We always advise to try to avoid direct sun contact for extended periods of time,” said Captain Evan Gammage with Phoenix Fire.
But for those experiencing homelessness, it’s nearly impossible. “Our at-risk population doesn’t have necessarily the access to getting out of the heat,” Gammage said.
When it comes to heat-associated deaths indoors, only 22 have been reported, which could be due to a lack of air conditioning. But two-thirds of deaths have been outside; many of those are people experiencing homelessness. “It’s just not cooling down at night, we’ve seen 100 degrees at night, and our bodies are just not meant to deal with those extreme temperatures,” said community activist Stacey Champion.
Champion says she’s seen an increase in the number of people living on the streets. “There are so many older people on a fixed income who are just straight up get priced out of their housing. And those people are going to be more susceptible to heat,” she said.
Almost 6,600 eviction cases were filed in August, the highest level since October 2008. Maricopa County says it could also be because our population has exploded over the years. “I said in the beginning of the spring that I was concerned that we were going to break the already grim and terrible record, and we already have,” Champion said.
The Phoenix Fire Department says while their heat-related calls have been on par with past years, they’ve responded to many hikers with heat-related illnesses. “Even with the sun down, it can be 100 degrees, so just because you’re not in direct contact with the sun, does not mean you shouldn’t be worried about the heat,” Gammage said.
If you are going out for a hike, they advise you to bring more water than you think you need, and when your water gets halfway, it’s time to head back.
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