s
s
Sections
Search
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

We marveled at the displays of heroism during October’s wildfires — first responders rushing in as their own homes burned, ordinary people braving a hellish inferno time and again to make sure their neighbors got away safely.

Their courage still inspires almost a year later.

What a shocking contrast to read a state investigative report that lays out in grim detail a story alleging that elderly people were abandoned by their caregivers at Varenna and Villa Capri, senior care facilities in Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove neighborhood.

The state Department of Social Services is seeking to revoke the licenses of their shared owner, Oakmont Senior Living, and bar two top administrators from ever working again in assisted-living facilities licensed by the state.

It would be fitting punishment if the charges are sustained.

Many of the residents at Varenna and Villa Capri needed assistance to get around, according to the report issued Thursday. Some suffered dementia, one was in hospice care.

And dozens were left behind on the first night of the Tubbs fire when their caregivers fled. State investigators concluded that more than 20 people left behind at Villa Capri would have died except for valiant efforts by family members and first responders.

“These residents would have perished when the facility burned to the ground during the fire,” the report says.

At nearby Varenna, a multi-building complex that didn’t burn, three residents woke up on the morning of Oct. 9 to discover that much of their neighborhood had gone up in smoke overnight. They had been left behind in the evacuation.

The caregivers and maintenance workers on duty at Varenna and Villa Capri hadn’t been trained for emergencies or participated in evacuation drills, the report says. Neither had an off-duty Varenna caregiver who came in to help.

The power was out, but staff members didn’t know where to find flashlights or batteries — or the keys to buses parked outside. Two staff members at Villa Capri had physical limitations that prevented them from performing standard caregiver duties, or even lifting more than 10 pounds.

Villa Capri staff members took some residents when they left but didn’t call 911 or notify anyone when they reached evacuation centers. Investigators said the administrator, Debora Smith, spoke twice by phone to a staff member and started driving toward Villa Capri but returned home before heading to an evacuation center hours later.

Nathan Condie, the administrator at Varenna, arrived around 12:30 a.m. and subsequently halted an evacuation because “he didn’t want to cause issues or make trouble for (Oakmont Senior Living),” the report says. He left around 3:30 a.m., taking a few residents in his car, without telling staff members where to find the keys to a bus in the parking lot. Other staff members left after Condie was gone, leaving as many as 70 residents behind. Emergency crews kicked down doors in a hunt for people who hadn’t been evacuated.

In the aftermath, investigators say Oakmont Senior Living posted a “false and misleading” account of the evacuations online, and employees of the company falsely claimed that they found no residents remaining when they searched Varenna the morning after the fire.

Oakmont Senior Living called the allegations unfounded in a written statement, and the company has 15 days to appeal. Whatever the final outcome, we tip our cap to the family members and first responders who didn’t forget the residents of Villa Capri and Varenna.

Show Comment