, Salem, MA

Local News

October 24, 2007

Locals helping out in California wildfires Red Cross chapter sending volunteers and aid to the danger zone

IPSWICH - Cindy Quinn's class on shelter operations for the American Red Cross became a bit more interesting on Monday when she received a call on her cell phone.

"My son called and said he was sheltering people," Quinn said of her 28-year-old, Bob, who works as a banquet manager for a golf course in southern California - where wildfires so far have burned 600 square miles and destroyed more than 1,200 homes.

Bob Quinn, a former Ipswich resident, is living with his cousin Andrew Desmond in Carlsbad, Calif. As of yesterday, he left the area and is now camping in a state park.

Her son and nephew are just two of the 500,000 residents forced to leave their homes as fire lines creep closer or smoke conditions become too dangerous.

And as emergency services director for the northeast Massachusetts chapter of the American Red Cross, Cindy Quinn is looking to help.

For the massive relief effort, the Beverly-based chapter is sending three volunteers off to southern California to help with sheltering operations, compliance issues and health services. Another volunteer is expected to leave on Saturday.

Beverly resident Natalie Masotta and Gloucester residents Ron Beckley and Joie Busby spent the day yesterday gearing up to leave for their early morning flight today to the disaster area, said Elizabeth Macomber, executive director of the local American Red Cross chapter.

The volunteers, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, will be working in an American Red Cross shelter in California. The organization has about 11 shelters and is caring for 4,000 people so far.

Schools, churches and municipal buildings are being converted to handle the massive influx of evacuees, Quinn said. Other organizations are also providing shelter, and Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers, is also taking in evacuees.

The number is expected to rise as the fires grow.

Firefighters conceded defeat on many fronts yesterday as they worked to stop wildfires fanned by high winds.

Unless the winds subside, firefighters say they can do little more than wait it out and react - tamping out spot fires and chasing ribbons of airborne embers to keep new fires from flaring.

"If it's this big and blowing with as much wind as it's got, it'll go all the way to the ocean before it stops," said San Diego fire Capt. Kirk Humphries. "We can save some stuff, but we can't stop it."

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