Officials: Oakmont Senior Living removed fire debris without permit or US EPA sweep

Byby Melanie Woodrow KGO logo
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Officials: Senior living center removed fire debris without permit
The Santa Rosa assisted living facility at the center of three Department of Social Services investigations over their fire evacuations is facing a new investigation by different agencies.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- The Santa Rosa assisted living facility at the center of three Department of Social Services investigations over their fire evacuations is facing a new investigation by different agencies. County health officials along with city officials say Oakmont Senior Living moved major amounts of debris from the property without a permit and before the EPA could check for hazardous waste.

Santa Rosa Fire Marshal Scott Moon says he saw construction equipment removing debris at the Oakmont Senior Living's Villa Capri after a police lieutenant called him to the site last Wednesday.

RELATED: Family questions Oakmont Senior Living's statement that all 430 residents are 'settling into new living arrangements'

"I was just very surprised because there was no set criteria or approvals for any property to move forward at that point," said Moon.

According to a Santa Rosa city cpokesperson, Oakmont Senior Living did not have a permit as required by the city.

Villa Capri burned down in the Santa Rosa fires two weeks ago. Moon says the area is in an active and restricted disaster zone.

"We issued a cease and desist or a stop work order," said Moon.

VIDEO: Varenna Oakmont Senior Living Community resident describes terrifying 'inferno' and confusing evacuation

Katheryn Mann says she was told to stay in her room as flames approached the Varenna Oakmont Senior Living Community.

Moon says workers complied but they had already removed the bulk of the debris.

"I would estimate 75 percent," said Moon.

An issue because the U.S. EPA has not yet conducted sweeps for hazardous waste at properties that burned down.

"We're taking hazardous materials from one location where we basically can control it in that environment and now we transported it to a new location that potentially can now be contaminated with that material," said Moon.

RELATED: Dept. of Social Services opens 3rd investigation into evacuation from Oakmont Senior Living

Moon says Oakmont Senior Living took the debris to a location in the county.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health Services says, "The County of Sonoma Department of Health Services is working with the City of Santa Rosa on a thorough investigation on this matter. We are looking into where the debris was taken and stored and if the debris was hazardous or toxic."

A spokesperson for the city says it's too soon to say if Oakmont Senior Living violated will be fined.

Moon says to his knowledge no other property owner in the Santa Rosa fire zone, commercial or residential, has removed debris.

Oakmont Senior Living has said all 430 residents are accounted for, safe.

RELATED: Attorney says understaffing at Oakmont Senior Living may have played a role in evacuation

Kathy Allen, whose mother in law stayed at Villa Capri, estimates she rescued 58 residents from that building.

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

A city spokesperson says, "The Santa Rosa Police Department (SRPD) has determined there are no unaccounted-for individuals from the property in question, based on the information available. Additionally, SRPD has not received any missing person reports..."

ABC7 News stopped by Oakmont Senior Living's Windsor Office to ask about the debris removal after our messages weren't returned. An employee there said Oakmont Senior Living has no comment at this time.

The Department of Social Services is investigating the evacuation at two of Oakmont Senior Living's four buildings on the Fountaingrove Avenue Property - "Varenna" (also known as the main building) and "Villa Capri." If you have any information you would like DSS to consider in its investigation, you can file a complaint by calling 1-844-LET US NO (538-8766) or by clicking here.

Click here for full coverage of the North Bay fires.