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Medics responded to more than 20 calls at sesquicentennial event

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Medics responded to more than 20 calls at the Capitol this weekend during the festivities surrounding West Virginia's 150th birthday celebration.

Capt. Ken Tyree of the Charleston Fire Department said emergency medical services personnel were on site Thursday, Friday and Saturday handling calls for heat-related issues, as well as other problems.

"The crux of our assistance was Saturday evening," Tyree said. "The greater majority was within a five-hour timeframe, from 5:30 to 11 p.m., where we had 20-plus calls to the Capitol and seven transports for various reasons."

Temperatures reached nearly 90 degrees that day, and Tyree said at least a quarter of those calls were heat-related. Because some calls came through the 911 system and some were through medics on scene, he said it was difficult to say for sure.

"I could comfortably say five of the 20 were heat-related. I know the first two calls around 5:30 that came in -- both of those simultaneously happened," Tyree said. "From there, there were others with symptoms relative to that."

Tyree said heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very serious and must be treated. The other calls were for a variety of reasons.

"What happened was you had people who stayed all day because it was a great and successful event, but they may not have drunk enough," he said. "We're talking anywhere from 12 to 14 hours of heat exposure and walking around enjoying the festivities, and just not being as mindful."

The National Guard distributed water and provided cooling tents.

Tyree estimates 20,000 people were on the Capitol grounds for the combined Sesquicentennial celebration, Vandalia Gathering and FestivALL events. He said adequate water was available.

The Charleston Fire Department had two scheduled units there, but other first responders, an engine company or two, four ambulances and other outside units eventually responded. Tyree said he ended up with 14 to 15 personnel.

"I was personally on scene," Tyree said. "It was a substantial event, but we did not have any problems because the State Police and Capitol police assisted us with access to patients."

With FestivALL events this coming weekend and temperatures expected to remain in the mid-80s, Tyree said the fire department will make similar preparations.

"We normally have units providing EMS on scene, and the events coming up on Friday and Saturday on UC's campus are well-attended," Tyree said.

Blues Brews & BBQ Festival will be Friday, and Wine & all that Jazz Festival will be Saturday. Both events are at the University of Charleston

"The best thing people can do is make sure they have a decent meal in, as well as at the event, and definitely keep very well hydrated. Hydration is key -- water being the preference," Tyree said.

Margaret Lieberman, executive director of Fund for the Arts, the organization hosting both events, said the organization would be prepared for 5,000 or so people attending both events.

"We have EMTs there and will be there all the time in case anybody would have health issues. We encourage people to bring shade from the sun -- no umbrellas or tents because they intervene with sight lines," she said. "We encourage people to drink water and that sort of thing."

Tyree said alcohol and long exposure to heat can be dangerous. Tyree said people should take advantage of shady areas, wear cool clothing and drink water.

For tickets and more information on Blues Brews & BBQ Festival, visit For tickets and more information on Wine & All that Jazz, visit

Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at


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