Harmony Grove residents say proposed housing developments could hinder fire evacuations

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ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- A group of North County residents are fighting two proposed housing developments they call dangerous.

Currently, hundreds of homes are already being built in the Harmony Grove community near Escondido and locals say adding hundreds more would put their lives in jeopardy if a fire were to start.

It has been four years since the Cocos Fire ripped through their neighborhood, but Jonathan Dummer and his wife Debra O'Neill remember it like yesterday.

“Simply the 75 or so residents we had here, and it was tough getting out,” Dummer said.

The memory is fueling their fight against the proposed developments Harmony Grove Village South and Valiano, which combined would bring nearly 800 new homes to the area.

“If a fire comes down that hill, which is directly adjacent to this new development there isn’t enough time for the 2,000 new residents and the folks that already live here to get out safely," Dummer said.

Dummer and his wife said they are concerned their only way in and out, a narrow two-lane road, would become jam-packed with people and their horses.

“People are going to be trapped here,” O’Neill said.

Those with the Valiano project sent FOX 5 the following statement:

"Over the past seven years, Valiano has been thoughtfully planned with input from neighbors, stakeholders, and the County. It will provide necessary housing to an employment base of over 238,000 jobs and help with the devastating housing crisis. The project has a Fire Protection Plan approved by three different fire jurisdictions as well as a detailed fire evacuation plan. The project was approved by the Planning Commission 6-1 and we look forward to presenting Valiano the Board of Supervisors," Lance Waite, with Integral Communities, said.

FOX 5 also reached out to those with Harmony Grove Village South and received the following statement:

“We are proud to bring our new sustainable community, Harmony Grove Village South, before the County Board of Supervisors for consideration, said David Kovach, Managing Partner.  “We have worked diligently for more than four years to be good stewards of the land, be consistent with the County General Plan, effectively respond to stakeholder interests and offer an attainable solution to help address the regional housing crisis. We look forward to a thoughtful discussion on Wednesday.”

The County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on Wednesday about whether or not to change the general plan to allow the new homes to be built.

It is a decision Drummer says should not be taken lightly.

“If they vote for this I can guarantee you I’ve been here for 50 years," Drummer said. "I’ve been through a number of fires. If they don’t do something. If they don’t have a secondary exit, or they don’t reduce the number of homes they have on that property people will die and they’re going to be responsible for that,” Dummer said.

FOX 5 has been told members of the board are not commenting on the matter before the hearing.

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