Malibu Search and Rescue warns against hiking in scorching heat

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Malibu Search and Rescue treat a female adult (obscured) who suffered an open ankle fracture from jumping a cliff into the rock pool at Malibu Creek State Park. MSAR reminds residents to be careful on these summer days, especially when temperatures are high. Photo Courtesy of Malibu Search and Rescue

Cooling off at local natural watering holes can also prove dangerous 

A woman is recovering this week from a bad injury she suffered last week while jumping into the notorious rock pool at Malibu Creek State Park. The well-known swimming hole that was depleted in last year’s drought has roared back full after this year’s dramatic rainfalls. It is now drawing big crowds during the recent scorching heat wave. However, diving and jumping in it is not advised. 

The Malibu Search and Rescue team recently aided the unidentified woman who jumped into the rock pool from a rock formation 20-30 feet high and suffered an open fracture broken ankle. 

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Rescuers carry a woman Sunday, July 16, to an awaiting ambulance, which took her to a local trauma center for treatment after she broke her ankle at the Malibu Creek State Park rock pool. Photo Courtesy Malibu Search and Rescue.

David Katz, Malibu Search and Rescue (MSAR) team leader, was on the call Sunday, July 16, responding to the injury at the rock pool. Katz said hundreds of people were there. A woman described in her 20s had jumped from “the highest point” into the water and suffered an open ankle fracture. 

Los Angeles County Fire Department responders were also on scene. The teams hoisted the victim out of the area using a rescue basket.

Katz estimates the temperature was around 95 degrees when the rescue took place. 

The MSAR team leader wanted to address how high temperatures can pose dangers to hikers and others visiting Malibu’s canyons, trails, and parks. While Katz says for the most part people seem to be heeding the heat warnings, he wanted to reiterate safety precautions you should follow during high temperature conditions. 

“There are plenty of people making the mistake of not carrying enough hydration, hiking in the middle of the day, and hiking with their dogs,” Katz said. “This is weather you should not be taking your dogs out at all. Even with the dogs in the best of shape, the ground is 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the air. So, if it’s 90 degrees in Malibu this weekend, figure the ground is 110 to 120 on the dog’s paws. And they have fur. They don’t have as efficient a cooling system. They pant. They don’t sweat like we do. People just don’t stop to give their dogs water every five, ten minutes. It just doesn’t happen. 

“Our advice is during this kind of weather, do not hike at all. If you feel like you just have to go, then go early in the morning. In the Valley in the morning it’s already 80 degrees. So, you need to go at five or six o’clock in the morning. Leave your dogs at home. Don’t hike during the day and don’t hike in the evening because it’s still very hot in the evening and you have darkness adding into that. So, we just recommend during this time of the year just don’t do any outdoor hiking. If you’re going to do it, make sure it’s early in the morning or just don’t do it at all. Take way more water than you’d ever think you would drink because people dramatically underestimate the amount of water they need for a regular hike. When you add in this weather you’re going to dehydrate so quickly.” 

Carrying extra water however can create another problem Katz explained because of the added weight.

In addition, Katz offered more helpful advice to hikers: “Carry a fully charged cellphone. Don’t surf on it or call lots of people while you’re out. Save your battery life. Shut down all the apps so they’re not burning battery life. Wear appropriate clothing and footwear, sunscreen and hat so you’re protected from the sun.”

Another tip Katz offered is to not hike alone. “Almost every person that goes missing and is not found hiked by themselves,” he said. “Let loved ones know where you’re going.”

Safety for first responders like the MSAR is important too.

“The biggest weight factor for us as rescuers is the hydration we have to carry,” Katz said, noting that MSAR tactical vests loaded with up to 45 lbs. of gear covers the upper torso that impedes sweating putting the rescuers at risk. In addition to heavy vests some responders carry 15 lbs. of rope and technical gear.

The MSAR is running about 20 more rescues so far this year compared to last year at this time. The team has made 83 rescues this year to date.