Posts Tagged ‘Idyllwild Town Crier’

Action Photographer Helps Idyllwild

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Fire near Black Mountain Sunday. Photo courtesy Jenny Kirchner.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The emergency dispatch call came in at 2:53 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 8. There was a fire burning on Hwy. 243 off Black Mountain Road near Pine Cove.

By 3:30 a.m., she was on the scene taking pictures next to the fire trucks. By 5 a.m., she had posted two of the best fire photos on Facebook and emailed them as a warning to others.

She also sent copies to the Idyllwild Town Crier and other media outlets to post on their web sites as “Breaking News.”

You could say that Idyllwild freelance photographer Jenny Kirchner thrives on chaos.

She spent three years as the main photographer for the Idyllwild Town Crier covering fires, accidents, natural disasters, and crime. At that time, she was using all of her own equipment, but purchased a police scanner and GPS device to help her to be first on the scene.

However, it was her “softer” photos of Idyllwild School kids playing soccer that won her national journalism awards.

Now that she’s a freelancer, Jenny can’t stay away from the natural disasters. Her best friend, Jill, is a dispatch operator in the desert who lets her know when things are unfolding.

“It’s a thrill being so close as things are happening,” Jenny admits. “But I also like knowing that my photos are helping people.”

She remembers grumbling to herself at 5 a.m., with no sleep, that people better check their emails about the fire in the morning.

The fire photos she sent out went to homeowners in the area, and van drivers from Idyllwild Arts Academy who were going down the hill early Sunday morning. (Jenny is also a part-time van driver for Idyllwild Arts). Julia Countryman is both a homeowner and a van driver.

Jenny captured the intensity of the fire in the early morning. Photo courtesy Jenny Kirchner.

“I saw Jenny’s pictures before I left for Ontario Airport Sunday morning,” Julie said. “And told my daughter that if the fire comes over the ridge, we’re evacuating.”

Since Jenny’s posting, there were several reports of the fire online, but none had her spectacular shots.

Even though it was dark at 3:30 a.m., Jenny managed to get both the blue skies overhead with the fire’s orange and yellow intensity, and the scrubby brown brush below.

In the second photo, Jenny captured the wind as it moved the fire along. She was at a safe distance, but everyone knows how quickly winds can change to move the fire in another direction. Gusts were reported up to 60 mph that day.

She sent the Idyllwild Town Crier her fire photos as a “professional courtesy” for them to use on its web site. They gave her photo credit and are in the process of negotiating a freelance contract.

Obviously, they know the value of a local photographer who is willing to bypass danger, give up sleep and take awesome action photos for them.

In addition, Jenny posts her fire photos and those of other disasters on her own web site, The web site generates commissions to do other photography work. She likes covering sports events, she says, but would rather not do weddings. Perhaps they’re not exciting or dangerous enough?

Jenny Kirchner’s fire photos can be found on her web site,, and the Idyllwild Town Crier’s web site,

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jan 10, 2012 @ 12:39


It’s Summertime in Idyllwild, Time to Abate

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

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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