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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 10, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Cal Trans as well as others need to comply with fire hazard abatement, go get um, Saul. If not it should be cleared and a bill sent to parcel holder. Greg Chick
Mckeddie October 10, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Not a bad thought Greg. Saul does a great job of keeping our area "to code". Unfortunatly, a 10ft firebreak along the road wouldn't be enough address my concerns. Once again, I am in favor of this plan but the risks need to be addresses.
greg Chick October 10, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Well yes, but Cal Trans has some areas of ownership 40' wide! I am not sure where all the areas are, but they are not up to speed. The power lines have easement, SDG&E has a history of neglect. the circles at mase of wooden poles is in this easement, but only the pole is "protected" Saul is fantastic, but even he has limits to his ability. What is a committee went out and looked at areas of concern and one of them google map savvy, went online to se parcels overlay and submitted a request to parcel owner? The committee would only need be un named. Planning group could receive note from "someone". Greg.
Alex R October 10, 2012 at 07:06 PM
This is a joke? right? everyone knows that what is being proposed is a farce, right? There is no evacuation route, there is only dirt paths, open fields and private property. This is in the news because jim piva wants to get re eleceted to rcpg, There is no route, people will die if they try to use it. Have you ever seen a picture of it? Have you ever seen a sign? Why are there no tours? No ribbon cutting ceremony? Why is it a secret? Because it is an election year lie. Jim Piva thinks no one will ever drive on it and report back to the public and expose the lie. Sadly, he may be right.
Melissa Phy October 10, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Hi Alex R. Thanks for the comment. Jim Piva is working with the water board to give a public tour of the route. Patch will be there to take pictures and ask questions. I'll keep you updated on the date and time of the public tour. Best, MP
Alex R October 10, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Greg Have you gone to the evacuation route? If not, then please get up and drive out there Bring a camera. I DARE YOU. Please report back your thoughts. Think about the last fire. It is dark, no power and you have to evacuate. Please let us know, AFTER YOU HAVE VISITED THIS JOKE, if you would recommend this route to your parenrts, friends and the young families in Ramiona. You have Jim Piva to thank for this route.
Alex R October 10, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Mckeddie, Have you gone to the evacuation route? If not, then please get up and drive out there Bring a camera. I DARE YOU. Please report back your thoughts. After four years of the county laughing in the faces of the RCPG, you have Jim Piva to thank for this route. He is up for reelection. That is why this is in the news, not because it is a real benefit to anyone.
Mckeddie October 10, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Alex, If you weren't so blinded by your obvious distain for Jim Piva, you might have understood the part in the article regarding the upcoming tour. I HAVE ridden my bike on the entire portion of the paved route and think it's a fine option for families looking to evacuate. Given a choice between a 67 'parking lot', I'd be glad to drive across a 1/2 mile dirt road. Nobody is going to MAKE you, or any of us, take the new route Alex. Options are good.
greg Chick October 10, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I think distrust of anyone here is beside the point, we are in open discussion on ways to get out of Fire Hazard. I have driven out Green Valley Truck Tr. I have done service calls out there as well as seen the pump situation back 97' when Ralph Gurzi RMWD Director had tour of the place. He said the fire would burn the pump, he was re called from the RMWD board in a Political spit like Alex has with Piva. This personal issue stuff is what worsened the Fires in the first place. We as a town need solutions not polarity. I will not defend Jim Piva, I will suggest he is working to solve. I still suggest we take the dirt rd. and clear hazards with our energy. I for one am going to shelter in place. Others can use evacuation Plan. I am not joking either, neither is Piva. Greg Chick
Mckeddie October 10, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Sorry Greg, there is no way Green Valley Truck trail should be a consideration. "Back in the day", before the dam? Maybe. It's not that some people couldn't make it though if all the gates were opened. But the trail, which I have hiked this year, is very rough and steep with tight switchback. I'm suprised that you, would think it is a good idea to send evacuees down a narrow single lane road surrounded by heavy brush. If one car had a problem everyone else would be trapped behind them. No access for help and no way to turn around.
solar1 October 11, 2012 at 01:09 AM
This was written in Oct 2005. Did something change? "Ramona Community Planning Area COMMUNITY PROTECTION AND EVACUATION PLAN October 2005. Ramona is bisected by two State highways, Hwy 67 and Hwy 78. Both have been closed on occasion due to fire and traffic accidents. Traffic congestion during the morning and evening commute can hamper the passage of emergency vehicles. Ramona has two alternate routes: Highland Valley Rd. is an alternate route to Escondido and Poway, and Wildcat Canyon Rd. through the Barona Indian Reservation is an alternate route to Lakeside. Extended portions of both Highland Valley Rd. and Wildcat Canyon Rd. are steep, narrow and winding. Wildcat Canyon Rd. passes through long, steep narrow canyons. Vista Ramona Rd. connects to the Old Julian Hwy and then to 3rd St., offering an alternate route from the San Diego Country Estates to Ramona, other than San Vicente Rd. All routes traverse mountainous terrain with native vegetation and would be dangerous to travel if a fire were burning in the area. Cars traveling on the roads have been a source of fire in the past" There is not a truly safe route out of Ramona when winds are blowing 50 mph with 100 ft flames.
greg Chick October 11, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Good question...
Joe Minervini October 11, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Greetings, Whether this evac route is the best we can get or not is debatable; we can always work on a better one..... in the meantime, it does give us an alternate to using Main St. which was gridlocked at the last fire. A few of you raise some good points. This subject evac route has been in the works for a few years. I have been around the block with the Ramona wildfire issue a few times and invite all of you to the Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG) meetings, held on the first Thursday of ea. month, 7 pm at the Ramona Library to speak in front of the Group. If you don't like the direction of the Planning Group, then be sure to vote this Nov. My votes will go to Cooper, DaSilva and Meyers...they will keep Ramona rural. As for evacuation, I'm not leaving; I didn't the last 2 times. With 3 horses, 4 dogs, I decided to put a well in, have emergency power ready to go. I don't suggest everybody do it. If you want to learn what i did regarding the fire issue, when I met 2 years ago with our local Sheriff, CHP, both Ramona Fire Chiefs, CERT and a member of our RCPG, call me, I'm in the phone book. See you at the next RCPG meeting. Joe Minervini
M Workman October 11, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Well Alex, I work for the County and I live in Ramona. There is NO connection between bringing this item forward and the election. Spouting such untruths over and over here doesn't make it true. What is true is that Ramona is in fact limited in our access and more possible routes are ALWAYS better than less. No one can accurately predict where the next fire will start and what routes will be feasible and which are dangerous. Applaud those in our community who are efforting agreements and plans to identify more routes. Ignore those who choose to make this about an election or keeping Ramona rural.
Joe Minervini October 11, 2012 at 07:21 PM
A reply to M Workman comment above: There is a considerable amount of association with the upcoming election and the evac route. You see, a few years ago the RCPG agreed to vacate a portion of unused Montecito Rd adjacent to the airport. Some argued that the portion vacated could be used as part of an evacuation route (one that is straighter and less circuituous than the new one we are presently discussing). As for the evac route not having anything to do with the upcoming election or Rural Ramona, remember, not too long ago, your RCPG approved a 417 home clustered housing tract called the "Montecito Ranch"....well, most of the future residents in this 417 home housing tract will be using the subject new evac route. Call me, and we can discuss this topic further.....I'm in the phone book. By the way, I appreciate you using a real name on this post. Joe Minervini
M Workman October 11, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Thanks Joe for the offer. You folks in my hoemtown can puch this around, mold the clay however it suits you. But this COUNTY is interested in improved safety and evac routes. NOT who sits on RCPG. So repeating several times that the only reason this is coming up now is to get someone re-elected to RCPG is simply untrue. I know better. And I thought I'd share. But I won't share my thoughts on RCPG in general. Not enough time and I suppose that is still personal opinion and belongs to me, right or wrong.
solar1 October 11, 2012 at 08:56 PM
I believe the new Ramona Air Center is the reason Montecito rd could not be used. Supposedly Montecito rd will be gated just west of Montecito Way. Have not heard anything new about airpark in awhile.
Torry Brean October 12, 2012 at 01:14 AM
There probably is not much left to add to this discussion, but I just wanted to clarify that there will be low wattage lights installed, and use of this road will be at the discretion of emergency personnel. I don't see how it would hurt to have this short connecting road as an extra tool available to law enforcement in the event of an emergency.
greg Chick October 12, 2012 at 03:55 AM
The County owes Ramona the easement to escape Fire. The Airport would come second to health and safety. In my world....
Joe Minervini October 12, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Torry, Thanks for your comment. I would like to put this post to bed also. The new evac road will be better than what we had before....only Main St. I did ask others 2 years ago for more when I met with CHP, Sheriff, CHP, CERT, and Kristi......I asked for a traffic plan for a wildfire evac for the intersections of Main St. and: Montecito Rd. Ramona St., Dye Rd. I gave them diagrams as to how putting pylons in the highway and aforementioned intersections would allow twice the number of cars on to the highway ...... I showed them how pushing people thru 67 by allowing 2 lanes down the hill and one up......from Dye Rd Poway Rd., Scripps Poway, etc. would have helped the last evac. What I got in return was, 1. The Sheriff's evac plan was confidential....according to Lt. Sutton 2. The current evac plan had everything covered....according to CERT. 3. The 2 Ramona fire chiefs did not think publishing places to "shelter in place" would be a good idea......in fact, they would not even follow my plan to have their chiefs go out and look for "shelter in place locations" and find those locations that would be safe from any burning vegetation..... Tory, if you want to discuss this further, i'm in the phone book. Joe Minervini
greg Chick October 12, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Sheriff evacuation plan confidential ? Now I am almost ready to quote a former poster, "This is a joke, right?"
M Workman October 12, 2012 at 04:00 PM
This is out of context. Office of Emergency Services has public evac plans for ALL communities, ours included. Not sure what is meant by "the County owes...?" County is a government and folks who live in Ramona don't really like it when govt comes in and takes something. (it is done but everyone hates it, as they should) So what should and did happen is a facilitated agreement with all parties agreeing to a plan to serve the residents. With all the misinformation, it is not surprising things get done at a snail's pace.
greg Chick October 12, 2012 at 04:20 PM
What I meant by "owes us" is the county has bought up lots of commercial property by the Airport for financial investment. The county serves the people not for profit gain investments. County planning is burdened with the task of evacuation for safety of the people, that is "Government". My statement meant that commercial property designation as well as Airport footprint needs by planning to allow evacuation if that is the need. If eminent domain has a place, it is for allowing a town to flee a wild fire. Priorities was the basis of my statement. If Office of Emergency Services has a plan it sure is a secret. What misinformation are you suggesting?
M Workman October 12, 2012 at 04:41 PM
That there is a confidential Sheriff evacuation plan. After the 2007 fire OES worked with many communities to design their individual evac plans. Ramona included. They were one of the first. It is here: http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/oes/docs/CPEP_Ramona4.pdf It is NOT a secret. And by the way, County run airports are for the most part cost recovery and self sufficient. In other words, they are not a general fund drain every year on the taxpayer. The money "made" by airports STAYS in airports. What would it be like if more government operations ran like this?
Mckeddie October 12, 2012 at 04:59 PM
While each commenter has had interesting and thoughtful posts in this tread, Joe Minervini's comments above hit home for me. My family and I protected in place and I feel it was the best choice for us. If everyone it town evacuated in the last fire the traffic jam would have been even worse and put more people at risk. Having protect in place locations(schools) and possibly even areas (Main parking lot) is an important concideration given variability of these major events. The best point I thought Joe made was what I'll call "optimizing our traffic flow". Having a plan to add lane and ellimnating all stop where possible is vital. I would hope the planners have learned from the previous events and have an improved strategy but the plan should not be "confidencial".
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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