First responders conduct emergency drill at Big Four Ice Caves

First responders conduct emergency drill at Big Four Ice Caves

First responders with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Forest Service are conducting an incident response exercise Saturday at the Big Four Ice Caves.

The exercise is being coordinated and rehearsed in case a multi-agency response to injuries and/or fatalities is ever needed at the caves.

Participants include personnel from the USFS, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, five fire agencies from Snohomish County, Snohomish County Fire Technical Rescue Team, Airlift Northwest and Sno911.

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Officials said several aircraft, which include SnoHAWK10, SnoHAWK1, and Airlift Northwest's Airlift 6, are being used in the exercise.

It is expected to end at 6 p.m.

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Back in July 2015, two people were killed as a result of falling ice. A Lynnwood man died from his injuries, and his 34-year-old sister, visiting from California, was crushed. Three others were injured.

Hot summer temperatures had weakened the caves, causing the collapse.

It was nearly a year after the collapse before the caves reopened.

Though warning signs are posted, people continue to venture inside and close to the caves.

In October of 2018, the Forest Service and Snohomish County officially relaunched access to 911 services at the Verlot Ranger Station by installing a new emergency phone.

Frontier Communications briefly removed the pay phone at the station in the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie Forest. It was then reinstalled until an alternative means of emergency communications could be found.

There is little to no cell service along the Mountain Loop Highway until Granite Falls, which raised concerns about emergencies at the Big Four Ice Caves. To get cell service after an emergency at the ice caves, one would have to make about a 40-minute drive.

The pay phone at the Ranger Station is the closest place, about 15 miles from the caves, to call 911.