Officials seek funding for emergency phones after death in American Fork Canyon

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UTAH COUNTY -- On February 8, 21-year-old Brigham Young University student Ashleigh Cox was killed in an avalanche in American Fork Canyon.

Authorities said because there is no cell service in the canyon, Cox was under the snow for at least 20 minutes while her friends drove to call for help.

Officials with the Lone Peak Fire Department are working to make sure that never happens again. Battalion Chief Joe McRae is organizing the project.

“We don’t think about it until we get up there and look at our cell phone and don’t have service,” he said. “We are so used to having cell service everywhere we go.”

For years now, Lone Peak fire has been working to get emergency phones placed in American Fork Canyon, specifically near Tibble Fork Reservoir, where Cox was killed just two months ago.

“It takes 15 minutes to drive down that canyon from the Tibble Fork area,” McRae said. “It takes us 15 to go back up, so there’s a 30 minute delay. We don’t think anything is going to happen to us, but there’s a lot of accidents up there. We respond to at least 30 each year in that canyon, and that’s quite a number.”

The fire department has attempted several different avenues to get the emergency phones funded and installed but have seen no success. They’re turning to the public that frequents the canyon, hoping they’ll see the importance.

“There are a lot of families out here,” Hiker Griffin Behm said. “It’s heavy use, so it would make sense to have that option, I would think.”

They’ve raised about $5,200 so far, enough to cover one phone, and most of that came from a single anonymous donor.

“That canyon is serviced by 1.2 million each year, so a lot go up to recreate, four wheel, camp, fish, and we just feel like there’s a huge need for the service,” McRae said.

The fund is set up through the Bank of American Fork. It's open to the public for donations. Lone Peak fire is hoping to raise enough money for a couple of emergency phones to be installed throughout the canyon.


  • Dave Johnson

    The Forest Service makes $110 Billion a year off recreational fees charged to the public – Forest Service guests.

    The Forest Service makes hundreds of thousands of dollars off recreational fees in American Fork Canyon.

    The Forest Service makes about $1 million just off of Little Cottonwood Canyon in recreational fees alone.

    There is more than enough money to upgrade cell phone coverage in American Fork Canyon from the fees collected in the AF canyon.

    The Forest Service has a duty of care obligation when it invites hundreds of thousands of guests into American Fork Canyon to make more and more money.

    Someone should Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request how much money is collected in the American Fork Canyon and what small percentage is used to improve the canyons.

    With so many more people in the mountains, upgraded Cell phone coverage in mountains would greatly improve public safety, fire fighter safety, and improve Forest Service guest customer service.

    Our money is already there in AF canyon. The money collected from the canyon should used in the canyon and not siphoned off to other areas.

    The FS collected over $5,000 a day in users fees in AF canyon. It’s a management decision not a lack of money issue.

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