Jul 18, 2023 - News

Heat-related injuries rise as Utah temperatures soar

Illustration of a weather thermometer on fire with a scorched top where the mercury has exploded.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As temperatures climb to triple digits, local firefighters and medical professionals are educating Utahns about fire safety and heat-related injuries.

Driving the news: Salt Lake City Fire Department Captain Shaun Mumedy said at a Monday news briefing that officials have seen an increase in dangerous heat-related incidents, from wildland grass fires to unattended children and pets left in cars this summer.

What they're saying: "Just this past weekend, we had four grass fires here in the city, and that's going to continue to rise and a lot of that is due to the heat," he said.

Details: Giavonni Lewis, medical director for the University of Utah Health Burn Center, said there's also a rise in patients, including children, seeking treatment for burns since 2021.

  • Over the past year, outpatient clinic visits linked to heat-related medical issues jumped to about 6,000 from 4,500 in 2021.
  • Common injuries among children include burns from fireworks and walking on hot asphalt or campfire embers.
  • The most frequent firework-related injuries tend to be on the hands or face, said Christopher LaChapelle, a burn surgeon at the center.

How to avoid injury: Lewis said it's critical for children to maintain a safe 3-foot distance from campfires.

  • When handling fireworks, Lewis noted, "having hands around things that explode [is] a very bad idea and can lead to permanent disability."
  • It's why Lewis recommends glow sticks and glitter for kids as an alternative to sparklers, which can reach temperatures between 2,000°F and 3,000°F.
  • If you experience a burn, LaChapelle suggests removing the article of clothing that may be hot and running cold water over the injury (instead of ice) and wrapping it with a dry cloth.

Be smart: While backyard barbecues and contained outdoor fireplaces are permitted on private residences, uncontained open fires are prohibited in Salt Lake City.

  • In honor of Pioneer Day celebrations, fireworks will be allowed July 22-25 in certain areas of the city.

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