8 families evacuated in west Ishpeming

Smoke billows up from the Island Lake Road fire on Saturday in this aerial shot taken by a pilot from Houghton who acts as a spotter to crews on the ground, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The forest fire took place directly across the street from the charred site of the 2009 Black River Falls fire, which burned 800 acres and destroyed 33 structures. (Photo courtesy of the DNR)

MARQUETTE — Eight families were evacuated in west Ishpeming over the weekend after a brush fire spread, threatening multiple structures and ultimately consuming about 25 acres of wooded land before it was contained.

Police and emergency responders were dispatched around 7 p.m. Saturday to County Road 581 and Island Lake Road for a reported brush fire, according to a press release from the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office.

Initial responders advised at that point that a forest fire was actively burning in a southerly direction. As a precaution, residents in the immediate threat area were evacuated by Marquette County Sheriff deputies with the assistance of the Michigan State Police.

The Department of Natural Resources advised at about 9:30 p.m. that the forest fire was contained and 23 acres of privately owned property had been consumed. Residents were able to return to their homes and camps.

The DNR is continuing to look for hot spots to determine the origin of the fire, said Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Assisting on the scene were Marquette Rescue 131, Marquette County Special Operations, Ely Community First Responders, Upper Peninsula Health System-Bell, Ishpeming Township Fire Department, Richmond Township Fire Department, Champion Township Fire Department, Humboldt Township Fire Department and Negaunee City Fire Department.

DNR Spokesman John Pepin said in total, 15 people, four engines and three tractor plows were part of the response to Saturday’s fire, which occurred directly across the street from the 2009 Black River Falls fire, which burned 800 acres and destroyed 33 structures.

Officials continue to monitor the area after a couple smokes kicked back up Sunday, Pepin said.

“The volunteer fire departments that worked on this did a spectacular job,” Pepin said. “They sort of switched from a mode of wildfire suppression to structure protection.”

Pepin said the Island Lake Road fire was the largest of a total of five fires were contained over the weekend.

Early spring is typically high risk for fires, he said, but precipitation later this morning should “knock down the fire hazard for a couple days.”

“Today we’re expecting some rain coming in late this morning that should help conditions, but we’re still concerned,” Pepin said. “There’s high fire danger expected across a lot of the U.P. today, some areas a very high fire condition in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Even though we’re starting to green up with spring here, we can still see some significant fires. We’re concerned still about the pine areas, of course.”

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is mwardell@miningjournal.net.