First responders, community desperate for relief from never-ending heat wave

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It's a scene first responders don't expect to see in the month of September.

Flower Mound Fire Department posted dramatic body camera video on social media showing fire captain Brad Hutchison desperately working alongside Flower Mound police to get a baby out of a hot car on Thursday.

"It was a simple accident. The mom did all she could do, she did the right thing by calling us right away,” said Deputy Chief Dean Feldpausch of Flower Mound Fire Department.

Officials said the infant’s mother was returning to her car in a parking lot with her baby around 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon. She had started the car with the push start button and had it running cool air while she was putting the baby in the car seat in the backseat.

Feldpausch said while getting the baby secure, she had placed the keys in the back seat – not knowing the sensor in the car would soon do something she would least expect.

"The keys were far enough from the ignition that it not only locked the car but it shut the engine off – so now the clocks ticking,” said Feldpausch.

First responders quickly arrived and worked to get the car unlocked through a cracked window. The captain on scene knew the car had just shut off before they arrived and gave crews one minute to attempt to unlock the vehicle or the window would be broken.

Once that minute passed, crews safely broke the window and were able to rescue the baby unharmed. The child was put in an ambulance to cool down as an extra precaution.

"It was really just a simple mistake, but it goes to show we need to be deliberate in these temperatures. It doesn't take long to get in trouble,” said Feldpausch.

Feldpausch said the extreme heat and drought have kept his crews busy and burnt out all summer. His teams have been sent to wildfires in other regions to major power outages in East Texas with their ambulance bus to rescue seniors from an assisted living facility.

"We do it because we love it and if we didn’t, we would be doing something else,” said Feldpausch. “But it has been a tough summer, I'm not going to lie to you. It's been tough for everybody but sounds like it's coming to an end, and we look forward to a nice fall."

This North Texas summer is one for the record books.

On Friday, the Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed some grim numbers. There have been 13 heat-related deaths in Dallas County since May along with more than 1,766 heat-related cases reported all summer.

In Tarrant County, ambulance service Medstar responded to over 1,013 heat illness calls since May 1. Of those cases, 56 patients were listed as critical status. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner reports 14 heat-related deaths so far this summer through August.

In August 2023 alone, MedStar crews treated 348 patients for a heat-related illness. This compares to 129 patients in August of 2022, a 270% increase.

“In addition to the number of calls that we’re having to go on and how busy we are to meet those demands, it’s also very draining for our people because they’re also out there in the heat," said operations supervisor Tim Malacina.

DESPERATE FOR RELIEF

Adding to the heat fatigue, several events across North Texas have had to be rescheduled because of the triple digits stretching into September.

Magnolia Green Park in South Fort Worth postponed their fall kick-off celebration on Friday night due to the heat and rescheduled it for later in the season.

Some schools are also still changing kick-off times for football games to keep families safe.

Businesses like Underdogs in Flower Mound can hardly stand it either.

"This is probably the hottest summer I've ever felt in my life,” said Sam Norman, a shift manager for Underdogs Flower Mound. “I'm from Minnesota, born and raised. My husband is from here and he still can’t believe it – he’s over it and exhausted from the weather.”

With a location on the River Walk Flower Mound entertainment district, half their space is dedicated to patio seating and views that they couldn't even use all summer. The bay doors they usually open up to allow customers more space have had to remain closed for most of the season due to triple-digit heat lasting well past sunset.

"We are just looking forward to the break in the heat because we know all of the business will come back,” said Norman.

Their patrons are desperate for relief, too.

"It's all day. And obviously having pets – we're trying to go out and do something but it's always been so hot and just absolutely miserable,” said Omar Fakhri, who had to sit in the patio area with his large dog, Mickey.

The restaurants provide a dog bowl of cold water for pets – misters and fans also help to keep patrons cool throughout the summer.

“We do what we can but there's only so much you can do when it's 110° outside,” said Norman.

A long-awaited break in the heat is almost here. The NBC 5 forecast calls for Friday to be potentially the last triple-digit day North Texans will see for a long time, with cooler temperatures and rain forecasted for next week.

Many are more than ready to say goodbye to summer 2023.

“Here’s keeping fingers crossed,” said Fakhri. "Today is the last day. This is our celebratory lunch – it's behind us now!"

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