The Stars and Stripes greets Idyllwild residents as they return from the last week’s evacuation. Idyllwild Fire hung the flag on its ladder truck as people arrived Sunday afternoon. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

“We’re still here!”

Thus read the headline of the Town Crier on July 4, 1996, right after the Bee Canyon Fire had burned more than 9,000 acres and knocked at Pine Cove’s back door.

“We’re still here” means every bit as much to Hill residents now as it did then.

It means that our residents’ lives were saved despite the disaster of last week’s 27,000-acre Mountain Fire.

It means that almost all Hill residents’ homes were spared — and for those who did lose their homes, it means that we’re here for them, too.

It means that Hill institutions escaped physical damage — our private businesses and our public entities, our schools and our churches, our service organizations and our clubs.

It means that once again we owe our rescue to incredibly courageous and tireless men and women who fought the flames with hoses and shovels and dozers and planes. They brought the fire to its knees, then the weather put it out of our misery.

Our Hill is an American microcosm. We are red-neck conservatives, bleeding-heart liberals and everybody in between. We are artists, construction workers, doctors, clerks, laborers, clerics, servers, actors, musicians, writers and people of every other vocation and avocation.

We are old and young, energetic and sedentary, social and reclusive, working and retired.

All together we make a community. That’s who we are.

And we’re still here.