"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."
To care for the displaced residents, the American Red Cross is undergoing a massive movement of resources, including 25,000 cots, 50,000 blankets, 50,000 prepackaged meals, and feeding trucks and volunteers.
Quinn said volunteers will have their work cut out for them because the fires in southern California are causing more evacuations than Hurricane Katrina and the Civil War.
Quinn's nephew James Desmond, 26, is a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, about 40 miles north of San Diego. He is helping evacuate residents; his brother Andrew, 30, drives a city bus and is also helping.
Talking on the phone with her son, Quinn said she knows how quickly plans can change.
On Monday, her son figured they could all hunker down for a few days until the fire died down enough so firefighters could get it under control.
"I told him to pack up some disaster supplies in case you have to move quickly," Quinn said.
The following day, he was on the road.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
You can help, too
Donations to the American Red Cross can be made by phone at 800-257-7575, online at www.redcross.org or by mail at American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.