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Seney blaze approaching 3,000 acres as firefighters battle to hold line

May 24, 2012
By KYLE WHITNEY - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - A wildfire in the Seney National Wildlife refuge continues to grow and has yet to be contained, burning a total of more than 2,600 acres in the eastern Upper Peninsula.

The rough acreage estimate was based on Wednesday night observations, according to

Jennifer McDonough of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Article Photos

A forest fire, started by a Sunday lightning strike, has been burning through a portion of the 95,238-acre Seney National Wildlife Refuge. As of this morning, the fire was approaching 3,000 acres and crews were battling to prevent the blaze from reaching M-28, north of the refuge. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced this morning that M-28, which borders the refuge to the north, will be closed for part of the day. The highway will be closed from at least 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. between Shingleton and Seney, to allow the DNR to create a fire break near the road, if needed.

Celeste Chingwa, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' U.P. resource protection manager, said this morning that the DNR would be assessing the location and movement of the fire.

"We've got a pilot going up today to find out where the fire is. If it's crossed a certain line, we're looking at taking aggresive action to keep it at 28," she said. "If we do have to take action, the highway is going to be closed."

Roughly a one-mile strip immediately south of M-28 is state land.

Officials also announced Wednesday that many of the refuge roads will be closed through the weekend due to the fire.

The Marshland Wildlife Drive, Fishing Loop, Pine Ridge Nature Trail and many interior roads are closed to all use, and will likely be closed through the weekend.

The fire is located south of M-28 and west of M-77, north of the Seney fishing loop. Crews are trying to contain the fire near Pine Creek.

McDonough said the fire had jumped a containment line to the west and was spotting.

"That spot fire to the west of that boundary line is where most of the work is taking place today," she said.

The fire was started by lightning during a large thunderstorm Sunday and was first spotted Monday. Within hours the fire had grown to 600 acres.

The forecast for the area calls for temperatures in the low 80s today, with strong southerly winds continuing into the night and McDonough said the crews are eepig a close eye on the fire's northward movement toward M-28.

The refuge, located in northern Schoolcraft County, is 95,238 total acres and has seen major fires in the past.

In 1976, a lightning-sparked fire burned 72,500 acres - 76 percent of Seney's total acreage. It started in July, burned throughout the fall and it ultimately required thousands of firefighters and millions of dollars to extinguish the blaze.

A number of other, smaller fires, including one near the border of Alger and Delta counties and a handful north of Newberry, kicked up in the days following Sunday's storm.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.



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