Hikers rescued from Three Sisters Falls trails amid heat wave

CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. -- Several hikers in distress were being evaluated by rescuers Saturday afternoon along the Three Sisters Trail in the Cleveland National Forest east of Ramona and South of Julian, despite warnings by officials this week in anticipation of higher than normal temperatures forecast for the area.

One hiker was airlifted by helicopter to Sharp Memorial Hospital in Kearny Mesa, a second one was being prepared for an airlift while three additional hikers were being evaluated, Cal Fire Capt. Issac Sanchez said. All were hiking in the Three Sisters Falls area.

Sanchez said the calls for help began coming in at about 3 p.m. Saturday and were ongoing more than two hours later.

Authorities from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and Cleveland National Forest issued a warning to hikers earlier in the week to use extreme caution while hiking at Three Sisters Falls and Cedar Creek Falls, a pair of popular water hikes made more appealing during hot weather.

"With extremely steep slopes (and) a rugged and eroding trail, the (Three Sisters Falls) hike is listed as strenuous to extreme, and is suggested for those in good physical condition," sheriff's department spokesman Ryan Keim said. "Couple this with extreme summer heat, no shade and rocky, unstable terrain, and many hikers quickly find themselves overwhelmed and under prepared."

Sheriff's Search and Rescue volunteers and deputies in the sheriff's ASTREA helicopters have this year already responded to 24 incidents of distressed hikers at Three Sisters Falls and Cedar Creek Falls. In 2016, rescuers responded to 51 calls to those areas.

Hikers and others planning to go outdoors are advised to stay in groups, keep hydrated, dress for the heat in light and breathable clothing, take regular breaks and stay indoors if the heat becomes overwhelming.

County officials also advised residents to stay in air conditioning during the hottest hours of the day, take cool showers, avoid using the oven to cook and avoid unnecessary sun exposure.