A continuing lack of moisture this spring has resulted in action by Gov. Rick Snyder. On May 25, the governor ordered a ban on outdoor burning in 49 counties in the northern part of Michigan. The Department of Natural Resources warns all residents that although rain has fallen in some areas, the risk of wildfires remains very high.
Fire sparked by lightning strike
Recent thunderstorms have covered some areas of the state but are not producing enough beneficial rain everywhere. The storms have even ignited several fires, including the 20,255-acre Duck Lake Fire in the Upper Peninsula’s Luce County. The blaze is Michigan’s largest fire this season. Moisture levels in parts of Michigan continue to be below normal, even after recent rains. Fire danger conditions will vary greatly due to this type of spotty precipitation.
“The rainfall will help reduce the risk of wildfires in the short-term for those areas receiving precipitation,” said Bill O’Neill, acting chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “However, it’s important for the public to understand that the high risk of wildfire is expected to increase again in these areas. With our firefighting resources stretched to the limit, the DNR strongly encourages all residents and visitors in all parts of the state to avoid open burning and use of any fireworks to minimize the possibility of more wildfires.”
Vegetation has dried to the point where more than just a single rain event will be needed to lessen the wildfire potential across the landscape. Below-normal moisture is predicted through the first part of June, allowing dry conditions to continue.
The governor’s proclamation prohibiting outdoor burning remains in effect until June 21, or until conditions change significantly to reduce the risk of fire, for the following counties:
Alcona, Alger, Alpena, Antrim, Arenac, Baraga, Bay, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Clare, Crawford, Delta, Dickinson, Emmet, Gladwin, Gogebic, Grand Traverse, Houghton, Iosco, Iron, Isabella, Kalkaska, Keweenaw, Lake, Leelanau, Luce, Mackinac, Manistee, Marquette, Mason, Mecosta, Menominee, Midland, Missaukee, Montmorency, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Ogemaw, Ontonagon, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon, Schoolcraft and Wexford.
The ban prohibits the following acts on or adjacent to forest lands:
- The burning of any flammable material, including refuse, brush, stumps, rubbish, grass, stubble, leaves, or crop residue.
- The burning of debris in a burn barrel.
- The burning of campfires, except those within permanently established metal or masonry containers or fire rings at authorized campgrounds. The ban does not prohibit campfires at places of habitation. Authorized campgrounds are those campgrounds with permanently established roads and campsites, which have designated locations for campfires. This includes state parks, as well as most private, county and township-operated campgrounds.
The smoking of a pipe, cigar and/or cigarette outdoors adjacent to forest lands, with the exception of places of habitation, authorized and improved campgrounds or in any automobile or truck.
A violation of the burning ban is a misdemeanor. In addition, anyone responsible for starting a wildfire is liable for the cost of suppressing the fire.
With some additional planning, recreation activities taking place outdoors can continue without risking the chance of starting a fire. The DNR recommends the following safety precautions when enjoying the wildlands of Michigan:
- Be prepared and use a barbeque grill or camping stoves when cooking outdoors.
- Have water available in case a spark or ember does escape and land in dry vegetation
- Don’t discard ashes from a barbeque grill, without soaking them in water. They will remain hot enough to start a fire for many hours afterwards.
- Properly maintain your equipment by checking the exhausts on ORVs, chainsaws and other outdoor power equipment. Anything causing a spark could start a wildfire.
- Smokers should always use an ashtray while in a vehicle and never light up in a wooded area.
For more information on wildfire prevention and safety, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.