Sleeping bags can be seen to the right of firefighters extinguishing the Saunders Fire on June 14.
Photo by Steven King

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Idyllwild Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the Riverside County Fire Department are holding a community meeting at 10 a.m. Monday, July 9, at the Idyllwild Fire Station.

Law enforcement and fire officials plan to discuss the risk and threat of fires on the Hill and what can be done to mitigate them.

“There is risk to public safety from campfires in unauthorized areas given the current forest conditions,” said Lt. Zach Hall of the Sheriff’s Hemet Station. Inadvertent campfires may have been the cause of two recent fires, and perhaps more.

On the Sheriff’s Facebook page, he added, “While this meeting is not about managing homeless encampments, it is about the real danger open fires present and what we can do together to reduce the risk.”

Hall and the fire officials would like to discuss efforts to help the homeless in the Idyllwild area. Some assistance may contribute to the risk of fire.

For example, offering a homeless person food such as raw meat, which has to be cooked, requires a fire. Left unattended, this fire might spread. Hall stressed that he is trying to offer the homeless services available through county agencies.

“The IFPD, RVC Fire/Cal Fire and USFS, in conjunction with the Sheriff, are working cooperatively to reduce the fire danger to the Hill,” wrote IFPD Chief Patrick Reitz. “One part of this effort is reaching out to the homeless population in the area to identify potential risks, identifying hazardous behaviors that could lead to a threatening wildland fire while educating and connecting individuals to needed services.”

Homelessness is not a crime, but sometimes this behavior can increase the risk of fire. The Sheriff’s Department does have a Homeless Outreach Team, which offers a variety of services, including rooms and apartments to the homeless within the county.

Hall and fire officials want to offer suggestions on how assistance can be shared without creating a fire threat.

They invite, “… all community members, residents, faith-based organizations, help/service centers and business owners.”

For more information, contact Lt. Zach Hall at 951-791-3420 or [email protected],