Shane and Ashley Stewart, owners of Pine Cove Market and Red Kettle, having a late meal after feeding hundreds of firefighters Saturday night. Photo by Becky Clark

Five center-of-town businesses were open Thursday following the previous evening’s evacuation and remained so throughout the evacuation.

Fifteen customers graced the Red Kettle restaurant at 9:15 Thursday morning. Most appeared to be residents, but a few were fire-related personnel, including freelance fire photographer Jenny Kirchner.

Fire photographer Jenny Kirchner had placed herself in the thick of the action and had provided some amazing photographs to the Town Crier, which have been picked up by national media. She couldn’t pay for her meal that morning because a local resident beat her to it.

Several firefighters took meals to go. Ashley Stewart said the Kettle had opened an hour early that morning at 6 and that it would stay open “as long as they need us.”

Larry Donahoo at Village Hardware said much the same thing. He said he had sold some batteries among other supplies and was planning to stay open on Friday, with the weekend to be played by ear.

At Village Market, Dan Aronson also said they would remain open as needed. Firefighters were among his few customers that morning and they were getting special rates.

At Idyllwild Garage and Chevron station, Tamara Friemoth remained open to sell gasoline and “whatever we can do to help.”

John Friemoth said the garage was staying open for Auto Club calls and other services. He said they had done a few jump starts for evacuating residents, and that he intended to stay open “until the flames show at the ridge.”

Gary’s Deli also opened to firefighters, law enforcement, media and the small number of residents who didn’t leave town.

Gary Budnik had been working in his deli throughout the fire, offering specials for the firefighters. He also stayed overnight in the deli with his German shepherd-mix, Chip, an ARF rescue dog who also is an Idyllwild councilman and won the Mr. Idyllwild award in the prior weekend’s ARF Pet Expo.

The weekend of the expo, the Lemon Lily Festival and the Art Alliance of Idyllwild’s show and tour were a world away.

The Idyllwild Town Crier and Visitors Center also was open with a limited staff of three to answer callers’ questions and update fire information at