Deirdre’s temperature was 104 degrees when paramedics arrived Saturday afternoon and began infusing ice-cold saline into her veins, racing to cool her down before she became another victim of Phoenix’s merciless heat wave.

It was a record 118 degrees outside, and Deirdre was in her wheelchair on a patch of sidewalk in northwest Phoenix. When dollar store workers called 911, her arms were seized with heat cramps and her skin was red as licorice.

“We have to go!” a firefighter paramedic with the Phoenix Fire Department said as a cluster of firefighters surrounded Deirdre and lifted her onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.

This is the blistering reality of summer for rescuers in Phoenix as America’s fifth-largest city staggers through one of its longest stretches of 110-degree days on record. A brutal “heat dome” set temperature records across the Southwest this weekend, and across the country, over 63. millions of people faced dangerous levels of heat.

Extreme heat comes with the territory for both Phoenix and its firefighters. They train climbing ladders and swinging sledgehammers while carrying up to 80 pounds of bulky, suffocating gear, and make a career of bursting into burning buildings and rushing toward explosive brush fires.

But the past two weeks of unbroken triple-digit days have put heat at the center of their work, turning them into a summertime army fighting to save homeless people collapsing in their tents, workers fainting in the sun and vulnerable elderly struggling to survive. breathe inside stifling homes. Many are trained paramedics, and they estimated that about 80 percent of the department’s calls are medical emergencies.

There have been 12 reported heat-related deaths in the Phoenix area through mid-June, and another 40 open cases where heat is being investigated as a factor, according to the Maricopa County medical examiner’s count.

“It’s amazing how hot things get,” said Buddy DiCosmo, a captain at Fire Station 30, located in a working-class area of ​​small ranch homes in northwest Phoenix. “You just want to shower and cool off. But many of these people cannot. They’re just in it.”

Also the firemen.

They huddle inside layers of insulating clothing designed to prevent the heat of flames from penetrating. They can feel the heat of 180-degree asphalt seeping into their boots when responding to traffic accidents. They sweat through their thick navy T-shirts lifting people off the ground and walking up mountain trails to rescue overheated hikers — rescue missions that two years ago. got sick a dozen firefighters with heat exhaustion and dehydration.

On the hottest days, an extra engine is often dispatched to fight fires as a safeguard against the effects of the heat drain on fire crews.

“You just can’t go that long,” Captain DiCosmo said.

After a relatively mild and wet winter and spring, heat calls to the Phoenix Fire Department are up this summer compared to last year, a department spokeswoman said. The department said it doesn’t have exact numbers yet, but a digital readout of all active fire calls around Phoenix offered a glimpse. At 3pm on Saturday, about one in every 10 calls was from someone overwhelmed by the day’s heat.

There was a dehydrated 69-year-old hiker who had to be carted off a trail near the cowboy-bent town of Cave Creek. A homeless man who arrived at the hospital with a temperature of 106 degrees. People who burn themselves on the sidewalk, children who collapse at sports practice and, sometimes, apartment complexes that turn into furnaces when the air conditioner blows.

The call to help Deirdre came at 2:30 pm Two companions, who identified her for firefighters, was leading her down the street said she simply passed out in the heat, but paramedics saw obvious signs of an overdose and revived her with a dose of naloxone and took her to the hospital.

Fentanyl pills are cheap and widespread on the streets of Phoenix, and some homeless people say they’re turning to opioids and meth to cope with the brutal conditions of living outside in the summer. Drug use was a factor in more than half of the 425 heat deaths recorded last year in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, the county health department reported.

The firefighters weren’t back at the station for five minutes when another call came in: a 22-year-old man collapsed from the heat. They rolled out again.

There, inside a stuffy trailer at the Sun ‘n’ Sand mobile home park, they found Alex Guerrero lying on his kitchen floor. Like his father and older brothers, he works repairing air conditioners, and spent the day outside keeping the units in full working order at an apartment complex.

He staggered home from work on Saturday and crumpled to the floor, and his family surrounded him, wetting his neck and giving him little sips of sports drink until the firefighters arrived.

The team checked Mr. Guerrero’s vital signs, took his medical history and asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital. He was feeling better, so he decided to stay home and recover.

The heat infiltrated other medical emergencies. An elderly man recovering from knee surgery fell out of bed and was unable to move, but his wife, Nancy Dorris, said she suspected the heat inside their home was making him groggy and affecting his balance. Mrs. Dorris said the family could not afford to set the thermostat lower than 79 degrees. Even then, the summer electricity bills run $400 a month, she said.

“Today is the worst,” she said.

As they drove away from the call, one of the firefighters streamed on the common engine communication channel: “What have we got, another month of this heat?”

The consensus was that it would be more than that.

By 8:10 pm, the sun was gone, but the heat persisted – 110 degrees and didn’t waver.

And another call came in: Sick, air conditioner broken, overheating.

They stopped at a transitional home that serves women who have been living on the streets. Inside, the thermostat read 90 degrees, and ceiling fans did little but froth a meringue of stale humid air.

Hazel Wilkins, 68, a resident, told the firefighters that the air conditioner had been working for a week, and stopped working completely a day earlier. Mrs. Wilkins said she had a history of seizures and chronic lung disease, and felt woozy.

Her vital signs, however, suggested her pulse, blood pressure and oxygen levels were stable, and the firefighters said there was nothing they could do but take her to the hospital. Mrs. Wilkins declined, saying she did not want to draw attention away from gunshot victims or the sick.

The firefighters asked the manager of the home when the air conditioner would be fixed. Monday at the earliest, was the answer.

“I’m fine,” said the manager, standing outside Mrs. Wilkins’ bedroom.

As the firefighters packed up, Ms Wilkins said she would try to call somewhere else to stay, but had given up on taking showers to cool off. She tried to drink water and follow the hot prepared leaflet that sat on her dresser. But there was no escape.

“It just grabbed me,” she said.

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