Snapdragon Stadium

EMS Overwhelmed By Heat-Related Calls at Snapdragon Stadium Game: San Diego Fire-Rescue

In a statement to NBC 7, San Diego Fire-Rescue officials said that at one point, they considered recommending the cancellation of last Saturday's game due to high volume of medical calls

NBC Universal, Inc.

At least one season ticket holder of the San Diego State Aztecs football team is calling for accountability following Saturday's opening game during a heatwave and several heat-related medical calls involving hospitalizations.

On Thursday, San Diego Fire-Rescue officials shared a statement, saying that at one point, they considered recommending the cancellation of last Saturday's game due to the high volume of medical calls.

An entire strike team was dedicated to heat-related medical calls at SDSU's first game at the new venue.

Seven engine companies and a battalion chief were on-site at Snapdragon Stadium providing medical aid that day, officials said. They blamed the heat wave and lack of shade at the new stadium for the situation in Mission Valley.

Viral video on TikTok shows SDSU fans sitting on the ground or with towels over their heads, trying to grab some shade during the opening game at Snapdragon.

Season ticket holder and longtime SDSU fan Kris Golojuch described a hectic scene during the game: "I had gurneys actually passing us. We had wheelchairs going by, people fainting, passing out, people on the staircases and stairwell sitting down. They had rags over their heads, they had water being poured on them. So it was pretty rough."

San Diego Fire-Rescue officials say by 10:40 Saturday morning, they were getting 911 calls due to the extreme heat and lack of shade. In a statement issued on Thursday, SDFD wrote: "Even though the stadium is located within the jurisdiction of the city of San Diego, SD Fire-Rescue received the medical plan two days prior to the event. A heat injury/ illness plan was not provided."

NBC 7's Joe Little got an inside look at the Snapdragon Stadium that is almost ready to welcome fans.

SDSU officials issued a statement in response to NBC 7, saying they did work with SDFD prior to and during the game, handing out about 200 cases of water bottles and providing water misting zones. SDSU also said they had advised fans to bring water and adapted its plan during the game, too, including requesting additional ambulances.

"All the stations were out of water," Golojuch said. 'People bought soft drinks, which they saw like a reusable cup. It's all you can drink, but they had no ice."

SDFD tracked 14 heat-related responses, and 5 hospitalized patients. American Medical Response, AMR, was also on site responding to medical calls. SDSU athletic director JD Wicker told reporters following the game that there were about 200 medical requests from the stadium during the game, with about 10 to 20 people hospitalized.

"So, kickoff was 12:30," Golojuch said. "Unfortunately, the east side of the stadium has direct sunlight probably well until about 7 o'clock at night, so even if these evening games come on until we get to, like, November, we're going to be in sunlight at least that first hour after kickoff."

Golojuch said he wants accountability from SDSU — at least an acknowledgment that there was an issue on Saturday.

"We just want the Aztecs to admit that the design firm made a mistake," Goljuch said. "They should have looked at some options, and that SDSU: You should have agreed with those options."

SDFD officials said they have offered to collaborate with SDSU for the upcoming game on Saturday.

SDFD's Full statement reads:

Snapdragon Stadium is state of California property managed by San Diego State University, which is a state school. 1) Even though the stadium is located within the jurisdiction of the city of San Diego, SD Fire-Rescue received the medical plan two days prior to the event. A heat injury/ illness plan was not provided.

American Medical Response (AMR) has the contract for EMS services at the stadium and was the agency managing care of patients at the event. 2) On several occasions prior to the event, the SDFD fire marshal, Deputy Chief Tosca and EMS Deputy Chief Pierce offered to collaborate with SDSU on the medical plan for the event, but it was clear that our input was not solicited. Chief Pierce did request that Falck work directly with Snapdragon to provide ambulances, and this resulted in Falck advanced lifesaving (ALS) ambulances being at the stadium, along with AMR apparatus.

It’s also important to note that because the stadium is located within the city of San Diego, fire or EMS emergencies that occur at the stadium would potentially be handled by city of SD departments such as SDPD and SDFD. In this case, it was evident that the sheer number of patients at the game quickly overwhelmed the EMS resources on-site and required assistance from SDFD.

At about 10:40 a.m., SDFD’s dispatch center began receiving 911 calls from people at the event who were requesting medical aid. Even though AMR had resources at the event, including several first-aid stations, the extreme heat and lack of shade caused the number of patients to increase quickly. Patients called from the stadium parking lot as well as from inside the stadium. At about 12:30 p.m., Chiefs Pierce and Tosca were considering a recommendation to SDSU to cancel the event because of the high volume of medical aid calls for service at the game. Ultimately, because canceling the event wouldn’t solve the problem, the recommendation was to allow the event to continue and address the multi-casualty incident with the fans in place at the venue.  

With regard to SDFD resources that responded to the event, Engines 18, 31, 45 and Truck 45 were dispatched to the stadium to handle medical aid calls beginning at about 10:40 a.m. At 2:08 p.m., Chief Pierce decided to send in a task force, which was made up of three engine companies and a battalion chief. The engine companies that made up the task force were: Engines 9, 11 and 20. Battalion 4 was the battalion chief assigned to the task force. At one point, there were 7 engine companies and 1 battalion chief providing medical aid at Snapdragon Stadium. This was in addition to the resources pre-positioned at the event as part of the medical plan. 

SDSU's Full response reads:

During the first game at Snapdragon Stadium, there was an unprecedented heat wave, which caused a number of attendees to have heat-related illnesses and who had to be treated on-site. 

As SDSU is a state institution, the state fire marshal has jurisdiction and SDSU works closely and collaboratively with that office on emergency plans. SDSU does not provide a medical plan for any of its venues (for example, Viejas Arena) to the city fire department. However, for the sake of collaboration, the university did share its plans with SDFD. 

SDSU utilized every resource available to help reduce the heat’s impacts. In advance of the game, the university worked with San Diego Fire-Rescue (SDFD) and other departments in the stadium’s unified command to respond to the conditions. We proactively communicated with fans in advance regarding the ability to bring in sealed bottles of water and the availability of water filling stations throughout the stadium. Additionally, there were multiple water misting zones on the concourse level. SDSU also added the city’s preferred ambulance provider, Falck, to response plans as requested by SDFD. During the event, the university made changes as needed, called in additional resources and acted on feedback from SDFD, including requesting additional ambulances from AMR. SDSU also handed out approximately 200 cases of free water to fans during the game. Given severe conditions across the region, we will continue to evaluate our plans and implement changes for future events.

SDSU values its relationship with SDFD and its presence and expertise in the unified command center for stadium events, as we have been coordinating in the months leading up to stadium opening. 

Contact Us