Groups agree on emergency evacuation route

By Karen Brainard

If all goes as discussed at a Sept. 27 meeting at County Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s office, an agreement for an emergency evacuation route for Ramona could be finalized by the second week of October.

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob listens to Mike Metts, district engineer for Ramona Municipal Water District, right, explain issues related to the emergency evacuation route that would travel over RMWD property. Also pictured are RMWD Administrative Services Manager Mike Callahan, second from right, and Bob Spanbauer, policy adviser for Jacob. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

Ramona Community Planning Group Chair Jim Piva, who has pushed for the route, said it will be the first emergency evacuation route established in the county since before the 2003 Cedar Fire.

“So we’re pretty groundbreaking,” Piva said at the Sept. 27 meeting.

With residents forced to flee town during the 2003 and 2007 wildfires, Piva stressed that the route is a safety issue.

“There isn’t anyone opposing this,” Piva said. “Now’s the time to do it. We’re right around the corner with fire season.”

The proposed route, to be used only for emergencies, would cut across land north of Ramona Airport and through part of the county Grassland Preserve to connect with the north property line of Ramona Municipal Water District’s Santa Maria sewer plant. From RMWD’s property it would connect to Rangeland Road, then head south to Highland Valley Road, west to Archie Moore Road and lead evacuees to State Route 67.

Although plans for the route began after the 2007 Witch wildfire, discussions stalled when the Ramona water district raised concerns about utility poles and guy wires that ran close to the designated route on district property. The water district suggested SDG&E underground its lines for safety.

Attending the Sept. 27 meeting were representatives from SDG&E, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Ramona Fire Department, Ramona Municipal Water District, Red Cross, and the county’s Office of Emergency Services, Department of Public Works, and Department of Parks and Recreation. Attending with Piva was RCPG Secretary Kristi Mansolf.

Rick Gardner, project management manager with SDG&E, said the utility has transformers at the RMWD site, and to underground the lines could cause more impediments because “green boxes” would be added. He suggested that the guy wires could be moved and reflectors or lights could be mounted on the utility poles for better visibility. Gardner said SDG&E would not be able to shut the lights off at night, but many lighting options are available so that they will not be bright.

Piva said the lighting option would be a great idea and no houses would be directly affected.

Other concerns, however, were mentioned by RMWD Engineer Mike Metts and Administrative Services Manager Mike Callahan. Metts noted that there are a couple of rock out-croppings in the area, and Callahan said the land drops off alongside the route, down to a spray field that could be wet during an evacuation.

Trading business cards after the emergency evacuation route meeting are, from left, Rick Gardner, SDG&E project management manager; Ramona Community Planning Group Chair Jim Piva; and Mike Robinson, deputy director, transportation division of the county’s Department of Public Works. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

Battalion Chief Saul Villagomez noted that safety of the residents is important, whether day or night.

“We can’t just let people run out there and not think of safety,” he said.

He suggested the route be delineated so no driver veers off.

One solution was to add reflectors on a fence that would separate the drop-off from the 12-foot designated route.

Jacob said the technical items can be worked out.

“We’re all together. We all agree there’s a solution here,” she said.

She asked that RMWD’s legal counsel and county counsel work together as soon as possible on the agreement, and said she would add it to the Oct. 9 Board of Supervisors agenda. She also asked RMWD to put the item on its Oct. 9 meeting agenda. Final sign-off on safety should be addressed by Cal Fire, DPW, the sheriff’s department, and CHP, she noted.

Mike Robinson with DPW said the route will not be graded, but will remain natural. The route will include a dirt road on the grasslands property, but only grass fields exist on the water district land.

Related posts:

  1. Utility poles stall emergency evacuation route
  2. District relays concerns with evacuation route
  3. County close to finishing evacuation route
  4. RMWD board splits on sending letter to county
  5. RMWD joins emergency road talks

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Posted by Karen Brainard on Oct 3 2012. Filed under Backcountry, Featured Story, Government, News, Ramona, Sheriff/Fire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

8 Comments for “Groups agree on emergency evacuation route”

  1. BAD IDEA!

    This should be a crime!!!

    This route is a scam. It is a dirt road that has existed forever. I DARE ANYONE TO DRIVE THIS ROAD AND REPORT BACK. Has the Sentinel bothered to drive this dangerous, dark, unmarked unlight goat trail?

    This is just Piva trying to get reelected after a horrible four year term. Are you sure no one opposes this? Why not ask the public in a poll and inquire with the dozens of homeowners who will have a dangerous route going through thier private property.

    Shame on the people that want to pull the wool over our eyes and call this a solution. People could die on this dangerous road. Shame

    • Fed Up!

      This is so Piva can have a feather in his cap, a ribbon cutting photo op with Supv. Jacob, the only evac route of it's type in the county. All he cares about is his own image. This is the worse idea ever concocted and believe me, I know more about it than the average person does.

  2. what a joke

    In the last fire 35,000 people had to evacuate and it took days. This dirt path through brush and cattle grazing is in open country and impassable in the rain or dark. People with regular cars will get lost, hurt and burn alive out here.

    This cannot be a real scenario that the ramon planning commission can be considering. Why the rush? election season? I don't vote for bad ideas or dangerous shortcuts.

    Please arrainge tours for the public so that we can see the fruits of your bright ideas, Mr. Piva.

    • Fed Up!

      And when all is said and done even if this were an improved roadway you still end up where? Either Hwy 67 & Highland Valley Rd, Hwy 67 & Archie Moore or are stuck driving down that winding Highland Valley Road. No difference than where we all ended up in 2007


    I just read this again and it gets even more stupid. They are going to have a small piece of the road light up 24/7. I sure would hate to have that in front of my house. Is the County going to reinburse us for our property rights, or are they just going to steal them so that we can pretend they did something.

    BTW – I thought this route already existed? I am looking at a map from the Fire Council in Ramona and it has the route and is dated 2009? Do we have to listen to this garbage every time Piva is up for election? Does no one care that people will get hurt?

    • Fed Up!

      UPDATE! Board of Stupidvisors approved/endorsed this route today (10/9/12). Remember this is just a route, not a roadway, improved or not. It is basically a single lane trail that is dirt until it reaches RMWD property where it will turn north 300', then west for about 1,000' across a grass field that is not clearly delineated as to where to drive. It will basically be a free for all, especially when panic sets in. This is nothing but smoke and mirrors folks. If any of you watch the local news remember the video they show of firefighters and bulldozers in the flames in a grassy area during the Witch Fire? Well this is exactly where this route is going. Yes the location of this route burnt in 2007. They also want you to go down Highland Valley Road to RB. Literally 100% of Highland Valley burnt up in that fire along with many, many homes, avocado groves, horses and yes, two lives. Piva wants to plead his case before RMWD at it's 10/23/12 Board Meeting. If you don't like this plan make your voice heard (if you can get there at 2pm). The best thing the county can do is have amoretti methodical evacuation plan rather than trying to get 40k people out all at once. This route will do nothing but kill someone!

  4. Gary Jacobey

    I asked a cop and a fireman what they think about this route last year. They laughed thier heads off and said "We cannot recomend it".

    Did anyone ask a cop or fireman if this was a good idea? Why would they risk peoples lives sending them down a path that bottlenecks at the highway. All it does is put people at great risk.

    This idea stinks!

  5. GetReal

    I am concerned this is a red-herring designed to get a northern bypass for the Montecito Ranch housing project. The Supervisors stand with the developers and commercial interests, not with the people, so I deserve to be skeptical. I am all for saving lives during an emergency, but this route doesn't seem to fill the bill. Its unimproved, unmarked, primative and mostly unknown to residents that are expected to find it in the dark while in a bit of a panic. So many questions come up on how this will be made into a viable escape route while protecting the sensitve grasslands habitat.

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