Volunteers from Yakima Community Aid offer free water, snacks and sports drinks Monday, June 28, 2021, at a cooling station on North Naches Avenue and Pendleton Way as temperatures surge in Yakima, Wash.

Heat was a contributing factor in at least seven deaths in Yakima County during a heat wave that shattered temperature records throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The total may increase to nine, Yakima County Coroner Jim Curtice said in a news release Thursday. Results for two men who were 35 and 39 years old are pending, he said. 

"During our death investigations, it was determined that heat was a contributing factor," Curtice said. "The common theme is a pre-existing cardiac disease history with limited and or no environment mitigation."

The excessive temperatures started June 26.

The manner of death of the seven — all men — was presumed atherosclerotic heart disease with excessive environment heat conditions contributing. Most didn't have air conditioning, Curtice said.

"We've gone into a couple houses that were over 115 degrees inside," he said. "The heat was contributing but not the actual cause of death.

"What's sad is nobody checked on them," he added.

The state Department of Health said earlier Thursday there were 78 likely heat-related deaths in Washington from June 26-July 6. That total included five in Yakima County, but state health officials said the numbers are "very preliminary and subject to change." The statewide count of deaths often lags behind local counts, and the state also is waiting on a number of pending deaths to be given a cause of death.

In 2020, there were seven heat-related deaths in the state from mid-June to the end of August, officials said. From 2015 to 2020, there were a total of 39 deaths from May through September.

The day this year with the highest number of heat-related deaths was June 29, with 33 reported. That day, Yakima set a new all-time record of 113 degrees, topping a previous record of 110 degrees on Aug. 10, 1971, at the Yakima Air Terminal weather station.

Altogether, 19 of Washington's 39 counties reported heat-related deaths. Most were in King and Pierce counties. "Over there, nobody has air conditioning. They're going to have a lot more natural deaths," Curtice said.

A near-final count for heat-related deaths won't be available for at least a month as state health officials wait for pending deaths to be reviewed and completed by local medical examiners and coroners.

The state will report heat-related deaths by county throughout the warm weather season and update the numbers every Monday.

Along with deaths related to the extreme heat, hospitals that provide data to the state reported more than 2,000 heat-related emergency department visits between June 25-July 1. That doesn't include Washington residents who sought care in Oregon or Idaho, or through the Veterans Administration or military, officials said.

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