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As extreme heat bakes the West, emergency helicopters struggle to fly

STANFORD, Calif. - The call came at 2 p.m. Sunday: A driver suffered a brain injury in a traffic accident and needed to be flown to a different hospital as soon as possible.

Lead helicopter pilot Douglas Evans noted the 116.6-degree temperature in Redding, Calif., where he would need to land. The tarmac was probably even hotter. In 27 years of operating medical helicopters around California, Evans had never had to cancel a flight because of excessive heat - until now.

Evans and other emergency responder pilots are used to factoring California's wind, fog and fire smoke into their flight decisions. But extreme heat, like the intense wave blanketing the West right now, is affecting the way rescue helicopters can carry out their missions.


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