Family, employee who helped evacuate assisted living facility question if fire evacuation plan existed

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Another family has come forward questioning whether Varenna Oakmont Senior Living had an evacuation plan in place. ABC7 News first broke the story of the Thursday. (KGO-TV)

Another family has come forward questioning whether Varenna Oakmont Senior Living had an evacuation plan in place. ABC7 News first broke the story of the Thursday.

RELATED: Seniors may have been left at burning Oakmont living center

Mark Allen describes wheeling his 89-year-old mother Helen from Villa Capri before the building burned to the ground.

"When I looked at those people -- visions of the Titanic going down and people saying goodbye for the last time got in my head," said Mark.

His wife Kathy stayed behind to rescue people.

"These aren't people that can just walk out on their own and get in a car and leave they need help," she explained.

Villa Capri houses people in wheelchairs, some with dementia. Kathy says there were three caregivers at Villa Capri when they arrived around 2am.

"We asked them specifically do you have an evacuation plan because we wanted to help out and they said no they were waiting for their director," said Kathy.

"I wasn't taught it if they do," said maintenance worker Andre Blakely when we asked if he knew of an evacuation plan.

Andre says he and a few other employees were busy rescuing people from the main building, the largest on the property.

"I think that we did a wonderful job because you got to realize for all those residents there was just four of us," said Andre.

RELATED: Varenna Oakmont Senior Living resident describes harrowing facility evacuation

Andre and Kathy say there were no back-up generators running meaning they had to push or carry residents in wheelchairs down steps in the dark.

A statement from Oakmont Senior Living to ABC7 News says, "All of our communities have evacuation plans, we have three three backup generators on site..."

Andre and Kathy say employees on duty either couldn't find keys to buses and vans that could have been used in the evacuation or didn't have the combination or key to access the lockbox that held those keys.

Oakmont Senior Living told us, "...we were unable to retrieve every one of our vehicles due to fire danger..."

They also shared that, "...the smoke alarm was temporarily silenced at approximately 12:30am when the fire threat wasn't posing an immediate danger."

Monday, Oakmont Senior Living said it voluntarily evacuated as it became clear the fire was getting close and it had had been unable to reach authorities because 911 and non-emergency lines were clogged.

"We hadn't received an evacuation order from emergency authorities," Oakmont Senior Living said in an email to ABC7 News.

Last Thursday however, in an email to ABC7 News, Oakmont Senior Living said, "When the order came to simultaneously evacuate all four communities in the early morning hours of October 9th, staff, nearby residents, and residents' family members began evacuations immediately."

"I wasn't really paying attention to what was burning, how it was burning, I was just focusing on how to get the hell out of there," said Andre.

As was Kathy, who along with another resident's relative used a trailer hitch to break the glass to Villa Capri after they got locked outside while rescuing residents.

"All I could think about was getting all those people to safety," said Kathy.

VIDEO: Varenna Oakmont Senior Living Community resident describes terrifying 'inferno' and confusing evacuation
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Katheryn Mann says she was told to stay in her room as flames approached the Varenna Oakmont Senior Living Community.


Oakmont Senior Living says all 430 residents are accounted for and safe.

The Department of Social Services licenses the assisted living portion of Varenna Oakmont and has an open investigation to determine if the facility followed its evacuation plan. Oakmont Senior Living says they are cooperating fully with regulatory agencies.

Oakmont living also says residents' safety "always has been -- and always will be -- our first priority."

"We are proud of all of the heroic lifesaving efforts by our staff, neighbors, residents' families and authorities who worked together to simultaneously evacuate all four Oakmont Senior Living communities."

"While our staff was in the process of shuttling our residents to safety, emergency authorities at several entry locations refused to let multiple staff members re-enter. An executive at another nearby senior living community informed us that he came across the same roadblocks and was refused entry to the area."

"Emergency authorities indicated they would take responsibility for evacuating remaining residents, and Oakmont was aware that at least one city bus was en route to our community for that purpose."

"Our staff remained in communication with authorities to ensure that all of our residents were safe, and one of our executive staff who was onsite evacuated the final residents."

Click here for full coverage of the North Bay fires.

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firefighterscal firefirewildfireNorth Bay Firessonoma countynapa countyNapaSanta Rosa
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