Army joins Extreme Heat Project

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The Army aids in preventing heat-related deaths.

by Elisabeth Arriero –

United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association volunteers distribute water. [Photo by Melissa Axman]

With temperatures expected to rise steadily through August, one Salvation Army site in Tempe is joining the Extreme Heat Project to bring bottled water to anyone at risk of dehydration.

“A lot of different groups have come in for water: homeless people, college kids—I’ve even seen some families come in,” said Capt. Keith Bottjen, who oversees the Salvation Army at 40 E. University Drive. “And if you don’t have to spend a buck or two here, it all adds up.”

Tempe residents can pick up free bottled water from Bottjen’s branch, across from Arizona State University, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday year-round.

Now in its third year, the Extreme Heat Project aims to prevent any heat-related deaths in the Valley by providing water, hats and sunscreen to anybody who asks.

The project, which will have 14 hydration stations throughout the Valley this summer, was originally created with the homeless in mind, said John Landrum, a homeless outreach coordinator for the Phoenix Salvation Army.

“The temperature here doesn’t cool down at night, so these people are constantly exposed to the heat and dehydration,” he said.

Melissa Axman, director of community relations for the Phoenix Salvation Army, pointed to a two-week period in summer 2005, in which 32 people died in the Phoenix area of heat-related causes.

“That was kind of our trigger,” she said. “We wanted to bring that number down to zero.”

Bottjen said that while his location has provided water to residents for the past few years, joining forces with the Extreme Heat Project will provide much needed reinforcement.

“The last two years we’ve run out of water to give to people,” he said. “Now we’ve been told as long as heat emergencies are going on, we’re going to keep getting water.”

At the Salvation Army’s annual water drive in Phoenix on Thursday, Axman was hopeful about collecting enough bottled waters to hydrate the estimated 50,000 people in need this summer.

Among the donors Thursday was the Phoenix Fire Department, which donated 5,184 bottles of water to be distributed across the Valley.

“We see the need for hydration stations every time we encounter any heat-related emergencies,” Firefighter Rich Bauer said. “The key is prevention. Keep drinking water.”

Those interested in donating water or money to the Extreme Heat Project can do so at any participating Salvation Army location.

Reprinted from The Arizona Republic, June 20, 2009

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