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Pay phone removed near Big Ice Caves, prompting safety concerns

Big Four Ice Caves near Granite Falls is a popular tourist attraction, but is known for a handful of tragic incidents. (AP)

The only pay phone on the Mountain Loop Highway near the popular Ice Caves is gone.

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A KIRO 7 News crew discovered that Frontier Communications already removed the phone at the Verlot Ranger Station on Monday.

There isn’t any cell phone service in the area and the phone at the Verlot Ranger station is used to call 911 when the Big Four Ice Caves collapse. In July 2015 one woman was killed and five more were injured in a collapse. In July 2010 Grace Tam, 11, was standing outside the ice caves when a large piece of ice, the size of truck, gave way and killed her.

“I have a pit in my stomach when I think about it,” said Sgt. Christopher Ferreira who is the Granite Falls Police Chief. “To have people up there with no way to communicate if something happens, it is a scary thought.”

The phone is owned by Frontier Communications. The company says it planned to remove the phone because of usage. But first responders say when it is used, it is to call 911. KIRO 7 checked with SNOPAC and found since 2015 the Verlot pay phone was used to call 911 25 times.

Cell phone service doesn’t return until people drive into Granite Falls.

“You’re asking folks to drive down 40 minutes, just to make a phone call,” said Sgt. Ferreira.

Ferreira said that time could make the difference whether or not someone survives.

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