Closing Phoenix hiking trails on hot days helps no one


Opinion: The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board may have closed trails out of concern for hikers or rescue fire crews. But no one was better served.

You would expect that when the heat is on, cooler heads would prevail.

That didn’t quite happen with the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board, whose decision this week to begin closing popular hiking trails on Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak during periods of high heat appeared knee-jerk and misplaced.

Distressed hikers might have been top of mind, although you can argue that Phoenix firefighters and paramedics who come to their rescue may have been more so. Regardless, no one’s best interests were served, really.

The board’s decision followed a request for trail restrictions from a firefighters union, citing three back-to-back mountain rescues on a recent day when temperatures hit 116 degrees. The calls resulted in two firefighters requiring hospitalization for acute renal failure from dehydration and exhaustion.

Twelve firefighters were also sent home for heat-related effects, the union said in a letter to the board.

Firefighter concerns were thrown on the parks board

The incidents begged for greater examination of what happened and ways to better protect rescue crews. What measures were taken to hydrate and rest the crews after each incident? Why were they dispatched on all three calls? Could another fire station have responded?

Was this an outlier situation or representative of a trend?

However that examination was to play out, the responsibility rested with the Phoenix Fire Department and its brass. Working conditions and safety protocol are the bailiwick of the employer, after all.

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Instead, the burden was misplaced on the parks and recreations board.

A presentation was sprung on board members to press the case for restrictions. But the evidence was lacking.

An accompanying report included the number of rescue calls Phoenix…