Lodi retirement home welcomes evacuees from Santa Rosa
Evacuees from the wildfire threatening Santa Rosa have found a place to stay, at least temporarily, in a retirement home and motel in Lodi.
General Manager Michael Parros of the Vineyard Commons Retirement Community in Santa Rosa received word that the power had gone out at the building on Sunday night, arriving to find firefighters already battling flames in the area.
“When I got a call saying that the power had gone out, there were already three engines fighting the fire when I got there, spraying the roof to keep embers from burning the building,” Parros said.
Parros arrived at approximately 10 p.m. on Sunday, and soon began preparing to evacuate the retirement home’s residents and staff, many of whom left with little more than the clothes on their backs.
Three city buses were used to evacuate the residents and staff, with some leaving late that night and others departing on Monday morning.
“In my role there as GM, I was really cognizant about getting everyone out safely and on time,” Parros said.
Parros left with the last bus at approximately 8:30 a.m., and was transported to an emergency shelter at Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa along with three other staff members and 25 residents such as Allan Stern. Although Vineyard Commons only suffered minor damage, Stern said, a nearby hotel and restaurant were not as fortunate.
“As we drove away, less than a quarter of a mile away a Hilton Hotel was 90 percent gone. There were a few beams and roaring flames, and the Red Barn restaurant underneath the hotel was completely gone. There was nothing there to suggest that it was ever there,” Stern said.
Stern and the other residents arrived at the high school to find a buffet of donated snacks, beverages and food in one of the gymnasiums, and a group of volunteers setting up cots in the other. Besides the food and accommodations, a medical corner was also set up in one of the gyms with doctors, nurses and Emergency Medical Technicians available to address any of the evacuees medical concerns.
“They did an excellent job, we didn’t feel rushed or pushed around. The volunteers were excellent, they came around with food, blankets, pillows, water, if we were awake they asked if we were OK or if we needed anything. I’ve been doing planning for years and to see what they did was miraculous,” Stern said.
The Vineyard Commons residents and staff were then taken to The Vintage Retirement Community in Lodi on Tuesday, arriving at approximately 3 p.m., according to General Manager Flora Jackson. As both Vineyard Commons and The Vintage are a part of Holiday Retirement, Jackson said, the Santa Rosa evacuees were welcomed with open arms, sleeping in the Motel 6 on South Cherokee Lane and taking their meals and spending their days at The Vintage.
“One of the most important things to us at Holiday is that we keep our residents safe and happy. Even after having gone through such a traumatic experience, they were happy to come here, have a good meal and sleep in a real bed,” Jackson said.
Besides the residents and staff at The Vintage making their guests feel welcome, the Salvation Army also did their part to help replace some of the evacuees’ lost items. A married couple living at The Vintage contacted the Salvation Army, who sent a bus and a van on Wednesday to take each evacuee to Walmart with a $100 voucher each to purchase clothes, toiletries and other essentials, according to Jackson.
Vineyard Commons also brought along their chef, who served up homemade bear claws and peanut brittle to thank The Vintage’s residents and staff for their hospitality. Stern also expressed deep gratitude toward his new neighbors, keeping an optimistic outlook on his situation.
“They’ve been really good here, there’s excellent service, the food is good, they took care of our needs. Even though it’s a disaster, we’ve had a really good experience,” Stern said.
The evacuees will stay at the Motel 6 until Saturday, when the motel will need the rooms for the upcoming Oktoberfest this weekend. At that point, approximately 16 evacuees from Santa Rosa will stay at The Vintage, while others will go to Bay Park Retirement Community in Pinole, another Holiday Retirement affiliate.