Fire danger remains extreme

It doesn’t appear that there is an end in sight, with Michigan experiencing an extended extreme level of fire danger, unprecedented weather conditions and recent wildfires, including a large one near downstate Grayling. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources continues to keep a close eye on conditions.

Dan Heckman, DNR Plans Section chief with the Incident Management Team, provided an update on the fire situation on Wednesday.

The lack of rain is the big story now, he said, although there are other factors regarding how quickly a fire can spread.

“Temperature, relative humidity, wind and rain play a big factor in this,” said Heckman, who pointed out that when materials like decomposing leaves, pine needles and grass blades acting as dense fuel sources dry out, it drives the intensity of fire levels.

“Low relative humidity really sucks the moisture out of those fuels,” Heckman said.

What has helped fire crews in the month, he said, has been the relative low wind speeds.

However, that can change quickly.

“That’s why we see things such as the red flag warnings being issued,” Heckman said.

Campfires, outdoor grills, smoking materials, chainsaws and all-terrain vehicles, it said, have the potential to throw a spark and ignite a wildfire.

NWS forecasts a 30% chance of showers for Friday night, but otherwise, no rain is expected through early next week.

Heckman said that in the U.P., weather reports from the Seney area show that conditions are not as severe as those seen in the northern Lower Peninsula, but the initial spread index is slightly higher in Seney because of forecasted wind speeds.

He pointed out that fire danger ratings in the season have been in the “very high” and “extreme” for the downstate Grayling and Mio areas, as well as the Seney area. The only areas in the state not in those categories are the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula and the tip of the Thumb downstate.

Paul Rogers, DNR fire prevention specialist, said that so far this fire season, over 600 acres have burned in Michigan due to wildfires.

“There’s been many, many smaller ones that the local volunteer fire departments have taken care of, and city fire departments,” Rogers said. “We greatly appreciate their help.”

Fire crews continued putting out hot spots within the Wilderness Trail Fire burn area on Tuesday as local roads reopened, the DNR reported in a news release. The fire, estimated at 2,418 acres in size, was 100% contained.

Rogers said during Wednesday’s brief that the DNR continues its prevention messaging, with electronic fire danger signs in high traffic areas, such as by the Mackinac Bridge and in Marquette and Escanaba.

“Even if we start getting rain — and we recommend this all time time — always check, either with your local fire department or with us, to see if we’re issuing permits,” Rogers said.

He provided another bit of advice with the current situation.

“The biggest thing right now is: Just avoid burning,” Rogers said. “There’s no reason to be burning yard waste right now. Wait for some rain. Consider other alternatives. There’s mulching, composting.”

The only way that we can continue to keep our pleasant peninsula beautiful is to be mindful of how quickly fire can spread, especially in these current conditions.

The DNR also reminds that if a fire does occur, calling 911 is your best option.

“Do not hesitate in these conditions,” Rogers said.


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