BEND, OR - -These smoky conditions could lead to emergencies, but right now, Life-Flight can't rescue everyone who calls.
Life-Flight's Justin Dillingham says lack of visibility is making it unsafe for personnel to attend each cry for help. "The weather is impacting our operations, and we have had to decline a number of requests throughout the entire region, throughout the state due to the smoke, but when the requests come in, we evaluate each one individually, and fortunately, we have been able to help people during the smoky conditions."
Dillingham says Life-flight is working closely with ground EMS to make sure those who need transport to area hospitals are helped, and he also says helicopters aren't the only option for rescue operations. "We do use our fixed-wing, our airplane, when the helicopter's not able to fly, if we can get to an airport nearby or if it's from one hospital to another, so that does help us, but there are times that even the airplane can't be used because the smoke is so dense."
According to Dillingham, personnel are having to evaluate each help request that comes in against the atmospheric conditions before deciding if they can fly to the rescue. "We have to make sure that it's both safe and legal for us to accept a flight to be able to help someone, there are certain minimum requirements from the FAA for visibility, we have to be able to see where we're going, and in instances where it's not legal, we would rely on the ground responders to help."
LifeFlight is still actively rescuing as many as they safely can. In Central Oregon, they rescue, on average, one person per day.