We’re struggling to come up with the right word for the shameful refusal of the Forest Service to take responsibility for the tragic consequences of the failure to maintain Fossil Creek Road for use by emergency vehicles.
We learned this week that the years of neglect of the Fossil Creek Road resulted in debris clogging the storm drains under the road Arizona Public Service maintained for a century when it operated a hydro-electric plant in the canyon.
Naturally enough, the monsoon runoff hit the clogged pipes, backed up, topped the road and washed it away. This exposed the fiber optic cable that carries the Internet and cell phone signals for all of Rim Country.
There’s a good chance that by the time you read this, the current rains will have washed away the cables once again.
Such outages have killed at least one person — and cost Rim Country businesses dearly.
Of course, the Forest Service has blithely refused to accept responsibility for the road for years. Officials seem completely unfazed that it takes rescue crews from Rim Country six or seven hours to reach people in trouble down in the canyon. Please note, five people have died in the canyon in recent years. Rescue crews have faced exhaustion and burnout responding to pleas for help from more than 640 hikers — some in serious danger from heat exhaustion and other medical problems.
The Forest Service seems completely unconcerned. In fact, not only has the Forest Service failed to maintain the existing road — it actually paid to have a bridge over Fossil Creek torn out. This added hours to rescues at the spring source.
Police and fire officials have pleaded with the Forest Service to allow Gila County or other private parties to undertake at least enough maintenance of the road to allow emergency crews on off-road vehicles to reach the canyon bottom. Local officials have arranged meetings between the Forest Service and congressmen and senators.
And what response have these deaths, rescues and pleas engendered from the Forest Service.
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
So, perhaps it’s unrealistic to think this unaccountable and indifferent bureaucracy will care if Rim Country once again loses phone and Internet service.
Then again, perhaps it makes sense. After all, the Forest Service seems unwilling to pick up the phone.
Any way you figure it, this counts as a shocking, irresponsible fiasco.
It’s simply incomprehensible.