On one afternoon this week, some in the cramped church scrolled through social media feeds on their phones for updates on the Dixie Fire, which started on July 13 and has consumed an area larger than New York City.
Baltazar Garcia tried many times to call his sister, but swamped mobile phone networks in Quincy meant he could not get through. “This has been really hard on me,” Mr. Garcia, 76, a former quarry worker, said in Spanish. “I’m alone here, and it’s difficult to even find out what’s going on. At least they’re giving us meals.”
Other evacuees spent time in the parking lot for a semblance of privacy or sought refuge in their cars, turning up the air-conditioning as the smoke turned the sky an unusual shade of orange. Every so often they turned on the wipers to clean the ash settling on their windshields.
“I can’t take it anymore,” said Tracy Ketcham, 66, a retired homemaker, as she sat in her car outside the church. She said she was looking for some peace and quiet when she left Orange County in Southern California for the rural enclave of Greenville nine years ago.
“I study the Bible — now I can’t help but feel this is the end of days,” Ms. Ketcham said. The lack of privacy in the shelter, she said, coupled with reports of PG&E’s involvement and the absence of reliable information as to how long this disaster could last, had her feeling at wit’s end.
“Maybe it’s all a sign that I should just go home no matter the risk,” said Ms. Ketcham, who lives alone. “All the waiting, the kids crying, the damn heat right here in town. It’s got to be better than it is right here.”
As if pointing to the drought conditions nurturing wildfires in much of the West, temperatures have hovered around 100 degrees this week in the areas around the Dixie Fire. The blaze has grown so much that in Sacramento, the state capital that is a three-hour drive from Quincy, smoke from Dixie Fire raised concerns this week over worsening air quality. Authorities urged Sacramento residents with respiratory problems or heart disease to limit outdoor exposure.