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Arizona residents in hospital after pavement reaches 180 degrees

At dangerously high temperatures, the ground can heat up, especially in areas where the asphalt is dark since it absorbs more heat than other surfaces

Heat wave
Heat wave | Shutterstock

July 27, 2023 8:42am

Updated: July 27, 2023 8:42am

As temperatures in Arizona continue to rise, several individuals have ended up in the hospital with “severe” burns from falling onto the burning hot ground, authorities said. 

“Summers are our busy season, so we anticipate that this sort of thing is going to happen. But this is unusual — the number of patients that we’re seeing and the severity of injuries — the acuity of injuries is much higher,” Dr. Kevin Foster, director of burn services at the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health, told CNN.

Temperatures in several parts of Arizona have climbed to the triple digits, placing several counties on Extreme Heat Alerts. In Maricopa County, for example, temperatures reached 118 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the county’s government website. 

At those dangerously high temperatures, the ground can heat up, especially in areas where the asphalt is dark since it absorbs more heat than other surfaces. According to several studies, asphalt can be 40 to 60 degrees hotter than the air. 

“The temperature of asphalt and pavement and concrete and sidewalks in Arizona on a warm sunny day or summer afternoon is 180 degrees sometimes. I mean, it’s just a little below boiling, so it’s something,” Foster explained. 

If skin comes into contact with the hot pavement or asphalt, it will generate a deep burn in a matter of seconds. If the contact with the hot surface continues for ten to 20 minutes, it could generate a third-degree burn, destroying the skin, Forster continued. 

Currently, all of the beds at the Arizona Burn Center are full. A third of the patients currently treated are individuals who were burned by falling to the ground. Additionally, several others are also in the ICU from burns. 

Last year, 85 patients were hospitalized with severe contact burns in Arizona, seven of which died from their injuries. 

Humans are not the only ones that should worry about the scalding hot surface temperatures, according to the Arizona Humane Society. Pets could also burn their paws if they come into contact with the hot pavement when the temperatures rise over 95 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The Humane Society is urging pet owners to do a touch test of the ground before letting their pets on the floor: if it's too hot for the owner’s bare feet, it's too hot for the pet. 

In addition to the injuries from the hot ground, Arizona has reported at least seven heat-associated deaths over the last weekend, according to state statistics. There are 249 deaths under investigation that might be related to heat. At the same time last time, there were 38 deaths related to heat and 256 more under investigation. 

In Maricopa County alone, there have been at least 25-heat related deaths reported so far this year, reported the health department. 

This year and last year, about 80% of the people whose death was related to heat exposure died after falling ill while being outdoors. Those who died indoors were found in uncooled environments—broken or nonexistent air conditioners.