Oakmont of Santa Clarita was evacuated during the 6,000-acre Rye Fire in Saugus last month, and residents and staff were forced to spend a total of 12 days away from the senior living community while restoration crews worked to repair extensive smoke damage.
On Dec. 5, 2017, Oakmont of Santa Clarita staff and volunteers from the community worked to safely evacuate 94 seniors while spot fires burned around the property and heavy smoke clouded the area.
A senior resident holds their dog during the Rye Fire evacuation at Oakmont of Santa Clarita.
“Our executive director, Margie, just handled things so calmly and professionally, and I think because the staff was calm and just doing what we needed to do, the residents were calm,” said Mary Demkowski of Oakmont of Santa Clarita. “So we just methodically got everyone out.”
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Several city buses and a number of staff members’ vehicles were quickly loaded up with residents, who were then safely transported to the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall.
No one was injured during the evacuation, and staff and volunteers managed to work quickly enough to avoid any of the residents becoming ill from smoke inhalation.
After serving an impromptu lunch at the Senior Center, some residents were able to go home with family members while the rest took charter buses to an Oakmont Senior Living community in Orange County in the city of Brea.
“We couldn’t go back,” Dembkowski explained. “We had a restoration crew in there — probably about 100 people — for days just scrubbing the building getting the smell out. We had to steam clean all the carpets and take out all the drapes and have them cleaned.”
Then after 12 days, the community of staff and residents from Oakmont of Santa Clarita were able to return home.
“Looking back, of course we’re grateful. It could have been a lot worse,” Dembkowski said. “I’m just so proud of the staff and everyone that pitched in and spent that time in Orange County tending to our residents until we could come back home. And we’re all back home and ready for the new year.”
Ed. Note: This article is a KHTS Community Spotlight based on a recent radio interview with Oakmont of Santa Clarita.