A week after the Veterans Home of California moved many of its aged residents off its Yountville campus and away from the Napa County wildfires, officials have begun bringing the retirees back.
The state Department of Veterans Affairs announced Tuesday night it will start returning to Yountville 130 residents of the Holderman building, which houses the Veterans Home’s skilled nursing center for those with long-term health issues. By 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the first six Holderman residents had arrived by ambulance, and most evacuees were expected back in Yountville by Friday night, according to CalVet spokeswoman June Iljana.
“We are looking forward to having our veterans back home in Yountville very soon,” Ursula Stuter, the Yountville home’s acting administrator, said in the CalVet statement. “We’ve been in regular contact with them since the evacuation, including visiting each person and speaking with the care team at their temporary location, so we know that our veterans are very anxious to get back to familiar surroundings.”
Those who were transferred to facilities closer to Napa County will be returned to the Veterans Home this week, with 47 people expected back by Wednesday night. Another 13 Holderman residents who had temporarily been shifted to the Eisenhower Building during the fire were allowed back into their regular quarters late Tuesday, CalVet said.
“Dozens of ambulances per day will be traveling to and from the Veterans Home for the rest of this week, and we want to assure the community that this is good news,” Stuter said.
Some 132 Holderman residents were removed from the Veterans Home grounds on the night of Oct. 10, when the Nuns Fire made its closest approach to Yountville. Ambulances took them to 24 different skilled nursing centers, and six patients were sent to the Redding Veterans Home, which is equipped with its own nursing facility, Iljana reported. (Patients sheltered in Redding are expected back in Yountville next week.)
Two of the evacuees died while away from Yountville, according to Iljana, who said one already had been in hospice care before the wildfires and the other was 96 years old.
Increasing smoke from the North Bay wildfires and its effect on those with respiratory problems was a major reason for the evacuations, according to CalVet, which said it consulted with the state and county Offices of Emergency Services and the state Department of Public Health before deeming the Holderman center safe to reoccupy.
CalVet said it has replaced air filters inside the Holderman, a former hospital, and installed air scrubbers there and in other Veterans Home buildings to cope with smoke pollution. Home staff also continue to provide dust masks to residents, according to Iljana.
As nursing patients were cleared from the Holderman building, incident commanders also began a planned evacuation of all the Yountville home’s 850-plus residents using Napa VINE buses, but most were returned to campus later that night after the fire risk lessened.
Anyone seeking information on a relative living at the Yountville Veterans Home is asked to call its patient information line at 707-944-4700.