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County Supervisors Approve Ramona Emergency Route; Public Tour In Works

The new emergency evacuation route is one step closer to being finalized.

Five years after the Witch Creek wildfire that led to a nightmarishly slow evacuation of Ramona, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to pursue a new route, as conceived by the Ramona Community Planning Group, that will help decongest traffic on State Route 67 during emergency evacuations.

"This community faced a major headache during the evacuation process during the Witch Creek fire of 2007," stated Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents Ramona. "In short, the entire town was ordered to leave all at once, creating a massive gridlock on Highway 67 and a potentially tragic incident in and of itself."

Ramona Community Planning Group Chair Jim Piva spoke publicly on behalf of the group at Tuesday's water board meeting, letting the board know that the county had approved the evacuation route.

"It's a very positive event and I definitely think the community will benefit from [the route]," Piva said at the meeting.

The new evacuation route would carry traffic from SR 67 along an unpaved road for about a half-mile across property just north of the Ramona Airport that is owned by the Ramona Municipal Water District (RMWD). The route dumps out onto Highland Valley Road, which runs west into Rancho Bernardo.

David Barnum, general manager of the RMWD, said he hoped to bring the emergency route to the water board agenda sometime soon. Piva urged for it to be discussed at the Oct. 23 meeting.

The vote by the supervisors at Tuesday's county meeting, which was unanimous as part of the consent calendar, directs county staff to negotiate the opening of the dirt road to the public during emergencies.

"This action will save lives and provides the people of Ramona another option in the event there is a need for people to evacuate, in the event of another emergency," Jacob said.

The passed item brings the route one step closer to completion. The RMWD must also approve of the route since it lies on RMWD property.

Water board member Joe Zenovic mentioned at Tuesday's meeing that it might be helpful for the press and public to view the route to get a better understanding of it.

"We should see where it is, what it is and be more informed about it," Zenovic said.

Water board president Bryan Padlington agreed, saying that a public tour of the proposed route will be a "valuable visual aid."

Piva is currently organizing a day for residents and press to take a tour of the route.

The new route will help with the decongesting of SR 67 in cases of emergencies, allowing those that live in north Ramona to bypass the state route, leaving it open for residents in south and east Ramona.

SR 67, which goes south to Poway and Lakeside, is the primary highway out of town. SR 78 also allows a way out of town and into Escondido, but consists of just one lane in each direction. In 2007, SR 78 was not available as an evacuation route because of the fire.

The only other way out is winding, narrow and accident-prone Wildcat Canyon Road, which runs south. Most of those killed in the firestorm of the 2003 Cedar Fire perished in the canyon area south of the Barona Indian Reservation.

Stay tuned with Patch for updates on the public tour of the route.

–City News Service contributed to this report.

greg Chick October 12, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Thanks for supplying the link, it need be center of thread discussion. My concern is not the airport making money or not, just the parcels bought for profit need not be planed for commercial and sold to do so and cause land lock for another evacuation route. The previous comment about no way for road to go thru because of a county allowed project. My comment on how much land around the airport is owned by the county for investment was meant to say investment comes second to people and I did not mean the existing airport that in it's self is not a blockage to evacuation route be a loss. The airport is not my issue, it is the evacuation route being blocked by surrounding parcels that are allowed to block an evacuation route. County planning needs to allow safe exit. (they owe us that).
M Workman October 12, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Ya know I got to get out of this conversation because it could go on forever. But since I was there and know some of what heppened, let me share. During 2007 the decision was made to evac all of Ramona, right or wrong, it was made. During the evac and subsequent traffic jam, it was proposed to route traffic by opening up the southbound lanes of the 67. The idea was nixed due to the heavy flow of fire units in to the area. Could it be done next time? Maybe. Each incident has its own set of circumstances. There is no one size fits all solution. Once again, the evac plan is NOT confidential. Your (our)community helped devise the plan. There may be Sheriff's Op guidelines or something that may be confidential, not sure what Joe was really after. But the evac plan is RIGHT HERE: http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/oes/docs/CPEP_Ramona4.pdf As for shelter in place, it can be a good option. But again, many factors come in to play. If every one evacs to Ramona HS, then basic services need to be brought in. If that is do-able, it is preferred most times. But if fire experts think it's iffy, no go. As for shelter in place in your home...that is a personal decision and personal preparedness is key. A man lost his life sheltering in place during the Shockey Fire.
Mckeddie October 12, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Thanks for sharing the link.
Joe Minervini October 12, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Mr. Workman, I agree, the discourse is getting quite long and time consuming. I was told by Lt. Julie Sutton that the Ramona fire evac plan was confidential at a meeting I mentioned above. As for opening up 2 lanes down the hill, and leave one open for equipment fire equipment coming up the hill, that was brought up.....I went out and measured the most norrow part of 67 (about 1/2 mile north of Poway Rd.) and it allowed for 3- 10 ft. lanes. The decision and the Plan to evac Ramona 2007 was a major screw up....period. Supposedly, the Sherriff, CHP, Fire Dept. CERT, now say things have been made better. I hope so. I am still staying home. As for your comment about shelter in place, I asked the 2 fire captains to go out and find sites that were far enough from fire fuel to be safe. As for the services, bring your own food, water and go to the bushes to releive......its called survival and its better than getting burned going nowhere on a highway. Joe Minervini
M Workman October 12, 2012 at 09:29 PM
This is not going to line up right....but. Joe, I wish it was all that easy. I too am sure it will be "better" next time. For many reasons. As for confidential or not, it appears you two were talking apples and oranges because clearly the evac plan is there for you to see. While I agree evac of 2007 resembled a good ol fashion cluster...no one got hurt and no one died. My family sat in traffic 5 hours. Seems stupid. But fact remains, we are a sizable pocket community with limited options. A community shelter must be supplied and policed. Shelter in place is "your" option on "your" property, but as I say, individuals must be properly prepared. They'll look at more options next time and the more options they have, like this new one, the better it will likely be.

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