Unlike other lawsuits against Oakmont Senior Living on behalf of residents and family members, a new lawsuit has been filed on behalf of staff members who were working at Oakmont Senior Living the night of the Tubbs Fire. They say they were thrown under the bus and that they did the best they could in the situation.
Almost a year and a half after the Tubbs Fire, rebuilding continues at Oakmont Senior Living where Villa Capri burned to the ground as elderly residents, some in wheelchairs and with dementia narrowly escaped.
RELATED: Family, employee who helped evacuate assisted living facility question if fire evacuation plan existed
For the first time we're hearing from one of the care providers who was working at Villa Capri that night. Anett Rivas was 8 and a half months pregnant.
"I risked myself and my baby's life," said Rivas who was crying.
Family member Kathy Allen previously told ABC7 News that staff left and that she and other family members rescued nearly all of the residents that night.
Rivas, holding her little girl, is speaking out now because she's one of the plaintiffs in a new lawsuit filed against Oakmont Senior Living. The lawsuit on behalf of employees and residents alleges Oakmont Senior Living "conspired to obstruct justice by covering up their failures and .. intentionally and wrongfully publicly blaming and shaming Plaintiffs and other staff for failing to properly evacuate and abandoning the residents of the Villa Capri and Varenna facilities during the Tubbs Fire."
"It's the employees who got thrown under the bus unfortunately who were really the heroes that night. They were the invisible heroes because there were so few of them and they were doing all that they can," said Attorney Michael Fiumara who filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleges that "Prior to the Tubbs Fire (Oakmont Senior Living) ... failed to establish a written disaster and mass casualty plan of action and viable evacuation plan..."
"My coworkers we were a team that night we did our best," said Rivas.
NORTH BAY FIRES: The evacuation of Oakmont Senior Living in Santa Rosa
The Department of Social Services determined that Oakmont Senior Living failed to protect the health and safety of residents at Varenna and Villa Capri.
As part of a settlement with DSS, allowing Oakmont Senior Living to continue operating Varenna and Villa Capri while on a two year probation, the assisted living facility admits staff left residents behind.
Rivas says staff were scapegoats for senior management.
"We could have died imagine if the wrong people were there they really could have died everybody would have died and we were there," said Rivas.
The General Counsel for Oakmont Senior Living would not comment on the lawsuit.
But in emails Oakmont Senior Living's owner's wife sent to families after the fire, she commended staff, writing, "Because of the phenomenal efforts and heroism of Oakmont's staff, residents and their families, and first responders, all of our residents are safe."
Varenna Maintenance workers Andre Blakely and Michael Rodriguez are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
"We were going as quick as we could with the help that we had," said Rodriguez.
"We did the best we could with no training 19:00 and they throw us under the bus and take the highroad," said Blakely.
Blakely says he rescued at least one resident from Varenna, driving her to safety.
RELATED: Varenna Oakmont Senior Living resident describes harrowing facility evacuation
Blakely was still working at Oakmont Senior Living, but late Thursday afternoon, the attorney who filed the lawsuit says Oakmont Senior Living's attorney called him and offered to put Blakely on paid administrative leave.
Blakely's attorney says the reason given was vague but they've accepted the offer.
Rivas and Rodriguez say they both quit.
Check out more stories and videos about the North Bay fires.
Oakmont Senior Living caregiver speaks out about Tubbs Fire evacuation
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