Number of heat related illnesses increase during scorching 4th of July celebration

ST. CHARLES, MO - It was a scorching Fourth of July for many people celebrating the holiday outdoors on Wednesday.

But it certainly wasn’t a holiday for paramedics who were busy treating people attending various St. Louis region festivals for heat-related illnesses.

“Most people are just overcome by the heat probably not preparing like keeping hydrated, not used to being outside and then having heat and humidity like this,” said Lt. Jeremy Hunsel with the St. Charles County Ambulance District who was managing the first aid post at the Freedom and Heritage Festival in O’Fallon, Missouri.

“Last year we only saw about four people on the Fourth of July and today we have already seen about 15 and had a couple of them transported to the hospitals,” Hunsel said.

Thousands attended Riverfest in St. Charles and the Freedom and Heritage Festival.

Robert Huffman with the St. Charles City Fire Department said first responders were a bit overwhelmed with the number of calls from people needing to be transported to local hospitals due to heat exhaustion.

“We’ve had about three to four pretty significant heat exhaustion cases where we’ve had to bring them from our festival ground and into our cooling tent,” said Huffman.

The department also handled a call for an 80-year-old woman with a possible heat exposure complaint at Blanchette Park.

“With the older community it really becomes pretty overwhelming pretty quick,” said Huffman, “you think you can handle it then all of a sudden you’re blocks away from your car and you’re trying to get back after a long day of having fun and it gets the best of you.”

Huffman and Hulsen said that even though fewer people attended both festivals they still handled more people needing help because of the heat, as compared to the same time last year.

Meanwhile, even though the St. Louis City Fire Department had several of its trucks spraying people off with water, about 50 people had to be treated for heat exhaustion at Fair St. Louis that returned to the Arch Grounds.