It’s Summertime in Idyllwild, Time to Abate

Idyllwild Fire Department is inspecting homes with abatement issues right now

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Memorial Day Weekend brought hundreds of tourists to Idyllwild, mostly for the yard sales. There were also hoards of part-timers here on a mission: to fire abate their yards.

No one can describe this abatement situation in a more humorous light than Ben Killingsworth, a current Idyllwild Fire Department Commissioner, and former columnist for the Idyllwild Town Crier newspaper.

In his recent book, “Waiting for My Wife,” a compilation of his Town Crier columns from 2003, Ben pokes fun of Idyllwild part-timers who come to enthusiastically abate their yards. Here’s an excerpt from “Making Little Clouds of Dust,” from page 242:

“Something else that didn’t take long to notice is that the average part-timer does more work in his/her place over a weekend than we full-timers accomplish in the five days in between. In fact, they are almost fanatic about it. I’ve even seen one or two jump out of their car with rake in hand before pulling to a complete stop in their driveway.”

Most part-timers are as enthusiastic about fire abatement as Ben describes, while others are not.  My neighbor from the LA area came to inspect her yard Memorial Weekend. The foot-high grass covered her front yard, but she decided to do nothing.

Fire commissioner and author Ben Killingsworth at home with a portrait by local artist Marcia Gawecki. Ben wrote a book about Idyllwild and humorously covers abatement.

“It’s still too green,” she said.  “I’m going to wait until it dies to abate.”

Rhonda, from the Idllwild Fire Department, doesn’t think that’s the right attitude to take.

“We live on this mountain, and not just during spring and summer,” she said. “Even if you don’t live here year round, your home is still here all year. Everyone needs to take responsibility for abatement.”

Abatement notices went out a month ago to full timers and part timers, giving them a heads up, Rhonda said. Then the IFPD waited another 30 days, but is now doing residential inspections and giving notices to homeowners. Once you get a notice, you have 30 days to comply or you’ll be cited.

Besides the notices in the mail, Rhonda said there’s been many articles in the Town Crier. They also have lots of abatement information on their web site,

Since Memorial Day, locals have been trimming trees, weed wacking and raking pine needles. The organic waste site at the dump has grown from a few piles to a large mountain top.

Yet, these sights and sounds make some homeowners sweat. They work full time and can’t keep up with abatement too. One single woman in her 50s was seen raking her yard at midnight because she was afraid of getting a citation that she couldn’t afford.

Knee-right weeds need to be abated now or you'll get cited.

“It doesn’t have to come to that,” Rhonda said. “If you are having difficulty abating your yard, the IFPD is here to help. We’ll recommend someone or give you more time.”

My other neighbor said that some Mormon volunteers came to her house and offered to abate her yard for free.

“They really seem like they care about our community,” she said.

“We want this year’s abatement in Idyllwild to be successful for everyone,” Rhonda added. “If you’ve received a notice and you’re having time constraints, just give us a call. We’ll work with you.”

The IFPD’s phone number is (951) 659-2152.

If inspectors see leaf bags or piles, they'll know that you're working on abatement and won't cite you

If inspectors see piles and waste in bags, they know that you’re working on abating your yard and aren’t going to cite you. However, she said homeowners with hard-core abatement issues who ignore the notices and don’t even try to abate their yards, will not receive as much sympathy.

“All it takes is a phone call,” Rhonda said. “Talk to Jack Peckham, our fire marshall, and he’ll work with you.”

More abatement information can be found on the IFPD web site at Ben Killingsworth’s book, with humorous accounts about abatement and other Idyllwild-isms, “Wating for My Wife,”  is for sale in the Idyllwild Pharmacy, Bee’s Books and on

Copyright 2o11 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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One Comment to “It’s Summertime in Idyllwild, Time to Abate”

  1. FPSI the firm with which Idyllwild.Fire Protection District IFPD has a contract for weed and rubbish.abatement moves through the community more property owners have been.sharing their encounters with the Town Crier.. .Abatement instructions started with the direction to clear all pine.needles weeds leaves and debris within 30 feet of any structures.