California officials allege that staff members and administrators in two retirement facilities in Santa Rosa abandoned residents during last October’s wildfires in Northern California.
During the 2017 Sonoma County fires in Northern California, two nursing homes abandoned residents as out-of-control wildfires threatened surrounding areas. The two nursing home facilities were located in the city of Santa Rosa which suffered major home and property devastation from the fires. The Villa Capri, an 80-resident facility, and the Varenna at Fountaingrove, a neighboring facility, are part of Oakmont Senior Living LLC, a company that operates high-end, luxury retirement living facilities throughout California and Nevada.
During the night of the fires, the Villa Capri was under the direction of Marie So, a substitute administrator. According to reports, Ms. So stated that she was unfamiliar with the facility’s evacuation plan and how to give staff directions during an emergency. She also stated that she did not know where the evacuation manuals, flashlights, and batteries, or facility vehicle keys were kept.
At the nearby Varenna facility, there were 228 residents on site, but the on-site staff was not trained on evacuation procedures during a fire. Three staff members did attempt to evacuate residents from their rooms but were told not to by Nathan Condie, the facility’s executive director. According to reports, Condie stated that he did not want to cause problems, then he and the three staff members left the facility without notifying anyone.
Reports show that elderly residents, many with physical and cognitive impairments, were evacuated by emergency responders and family members who used their own vehicles to get people away from the fires. While the Varenna facility survived the fires, the Villa Capri facility burned to the ground. Although all 418 residents from both facilities were safely evacuated, without help from first responders and family members who rushed to the scene, many residents could have perished in the fires.
Based on evidence gathered from investigations and witnesses, the State Department of Social Services determined that Oakmont Senior Living, LLC. failed to protect nursing home residents in their care at Villa Capri and Varenna. California officials are attempting to revoke both facilities’ licenses. Legal notice was served to Oakmont to revoke the licenses of both facilities and ban both administrators for life. Oakmont Senior Living states that they voluntarily began evacuations after repeated attempts to reach 911 emergency responders failed, and they deny all allegations.