California investigates fire evacuation at senior care homes

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California regulators are investigating the evacuations of two assisted living homes for seniors that were damaged when a wind-driven wildfire swept through California wine country, a spokesman for the Department of Social Services said Tuesday.

The two investigations were opened because of information developed during a routine review of evacuations at more than 100 care facilities affected by wildfires, said Michael Weston, the department's deputy director of public affairs.

He declined to answer questions about why the investigations were launched, citing the ongoing probes of Varenna at Fountain Grove and Villa Capris, neighboring properties in Santa Rosa.

"Once the investigation is complete all that information would be made public as to what prompted the investigation," Weston said.

Varenna and Villa Capris are two of four damaged facilities run by Oakmont Management Group of Windsor, California.

Villa Capris, which has 63 units including a memory care facility for senior with dementia, was destroyed, according to the company's website. Portions of the 163-unit Varenna property were damaged.

Oakmont Vice President Crystal Robinson did not respond to telephone and email messages seeking comment on the state investigation.

"All of our residents are accounted for, safe, and settling into new living arrangements," Robinson's email auto response said.

State regulations require licensed care facilities to hold fire, earthquake and disaster drills several times per year. 

The deadliest wildfires in California history have been burning for more than a week, killing dozens of people and destroying nearly 6,000 homes.

About 34,000 people remained under evacuation Tuesday, down from 40,000 on Monday. Many of the dead who have been publicly identified were elderly.

The fire that damaged the Oakmont facilities leveled vast areas of northern Santa Rosa when it swept through in the middle of the night on Oct. 9, sending residents fleeing.