Smoke grounds Mercy Flights helicopters

Fires are filling the valley with smoke hampering visibility and grounding Mercy Flights helicopters.

Chief Executive Officer Doug Stewart with Mercy Flights says patients far away from hospitals haven’t been able to receive help as quickly without the use of helicopters.

He says the Federal Aviation Administration has flight visibility minimums.

Pilots need to see 3 miles to fly and they can’t see anywhere close to that right now.

Stewart says the smoke affects during wildfire season varies from year to year.

“Two years ago we had a really bad fire season and the same thing happened to us. This one is a little bit worse for us and we’re really hoping that a weather system will come through and blow this smoke out so we can serve patients better,” Doug Stewart said.

Stewart says Mercy Flights’ fixed wing aircraft can still take patients north or south to larger or specialty hospitals, but rural responses in this smoke must be done by ground ambulance.

While it’s rare for the smoke to ground helicopters, Stewart says fog does affect their helicopters in the winter.

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