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PHOENIX (AP)- A blazing heat wave expected to send the mercury soaring to nearly 120 degrees in Phoenix and Las Vegas settled over the West on Friday, threatening to ground airliners and raising fears that people and pets will get burned on the scalding pavement.

The heat was so punishing that zookeepers in Phoenix hosed down the elephants and fed tigers frozen fish snacks. Officials at Salt River Project, the Phoenix area's largest electricity provider, closely monitored usage in order to redirect energy in case of a potential overload. And extra personnel were added to the U.S. Border Patrol's Search, Trauma, and Rescue unit.

At least seven people have been found dead in the last week in Arizona after falling victim to the desert's brutal heat.

The scorching weather also presented problems for airlines because high temperatures can make it more difficult for planes to take off. Hot air reduces lift and also hurts engine performance. Smaller jets and propeller planes are more likely to be affected.

And Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the famously hard-nosed sheriff who runs a tent jail, planned to distribute ice cream and cold towels to inmates this weekend.

Associated Press,

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