Residents of a neighborhood east of Apache Junction have squared off on both sides of two nearby roadblocks, with one group calling them a health hazard and the other claiming they keep the area safe.
Tuni House lives on Hidalgo Street, where a roadblock was placed in late 2002.
House suffered a heart attack at home in December.
She said emergency personnel were forced to take a lengthy and confusing detour because of the roadblock on her street and another on Lost Dutchman Boulevard directly north.
"The fire department went the wrong way — the ambulance got lost," House said. "It added at least six minutes to their response time."
The two roadblocks close off the neighborhood, which is in an unincorporated area of Pinal County, from the west side, forcing all traffic to exit north on Val Vista Road. Lost Dutchman offered a more direct route to Apache Junction, and its closure is the primary topic of debate.
"If there’s a fire on Val Vista, we’re up a creek," House said. "Someone’s going to die, or someone’s going to get hurt."
House’s neighbor Teri Hadden has a different view of the situation. She said Lost Dutchman was a poorly maintained dirt road traversing dangerous hills.
"The majority of residents on Hidalgo and west of Lost Dutchman do not want the road opened," Hadden said. "Truthfully, Lost Dutchman is a very steep road — I really don’t see a fire truck getting up there any quicker."
Still, House attended an Apache Junction City Council meeting Tuesday armed with a letter written in 1993 by Apache Junction fire district chief John Flynn, in which Flynn states the fire district "utilizes Lost Dutchman Blvd. on a regular basis," and that its closure "will cause an increase in the response time" to the neighborhood, which now includes about 100 homes.
House’s husband, Todd House, asked the council to reopen the road and warned of the potential danger.
"Now that you know these things, somebody must act or else there’s going to be more blood on your hands," he said.
The Apache Junction City Council unanimously approved the closure of Lost Dutchman in May 1998 at the request of Pinal County and with the approval of the State Land Department, since portions of Hidalgo and Lost Dutchman extend through state land.
Pinal County Supervisor Sandie Smith, D-District 2 of Gold Canyon, said the county asked Apache Junction to place the roadblock because Lost Dutchman was an improperly aligned road that extended through both state and private land.
It began as a trail and was never intended for motor vehicle use, she said.
Smith said she has corresponded recently with Apache Junction Fire District officials, who have said the closing of Lost Dutchman doesn’t affect service to the area.
"We have a letter from the fire district saying they can’t use the road," she said.
Flynn could not be reached for comment last week.
Apache Junction Mayor Douglas Coleman said the council would revisit the issue during its Jan. 20 meeting.
"If the county is in favor of it, I’m all for opening it up," he said.