Orange County Approves Plan to Build 340 Homes in a High Risk Fire Area

Developer Douglas Wymore plans to build 340 multimillion-dollar homes in the Esperanza Hills

Over the continued objections of residents, Orange County supervisors signed off for a third time on plans to build 340 multimillion-dollar homes in the Esperanza Hills located in a gated, dead-end street North of  Yorba Linda.

On Nov. 15, 2008, a small brush fire started near the 91 Freeway, a Santa Ana wind corridor. The fire raced west, scorching the entire Esperanza Hills site before moving down into neighborhoods and burning 381 homes, one of the most destructive fires in OC’s history.

So, why would anyone want to build in such a risky place? The developer behind the project, Douglas Wymore believes he can build these houses, on this site, safely.

 Esperanza Hills

Of particular concern is that the new development would only have one way in and out for everyday use. Wymore has maintained that a second, emergency-only access to the neighborhood would be sufficient in an emergency. He has also noted the addition of gravity-fed fire hydrants and expanded fire-resistant landscaping to the project’s plans. All the houses will be built using fire-resistant materials as required by state building code, including sprinklers in the attic. He’s building at least 170 feet of defensible space around the homes. There will be two on-site water tanks for firefighting. And two entrances, one for emergencies, one for everyday use.

By building modern, fire-resistant homes in the path of a wildfire, Wymore believes he is protecting everyone else in the area whose houses may not be up to the latest building codes. The thinking being: his neighborhood will act as a fire buffer for older, more flammable homes.

The bottom line is, there’s a demand for people that want to live in those areas for obvious reasons Wymore said. And so if you’re going to take on the task of satisfying that demand and building a project, I think you have a responsibility to make sure you do what’s necessary to make your development safe.