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DNRE issues “no burn” request

This house in Nelson Township caught fire last year after a wildfire spread. Post photo by J. Reed

Spring wildfire season is underway, and with grass fires popping up all across southern Lower Michigan, the Plainwell office of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment issued a “no burn” request to area fire departments Tuesday, until further notice. That means no open burn permits will be issued.

According to DNRE Fire Supervisor Kim Dufresne, it was a request, not a ban. “Only the governor can issue a ban,” he clarified.

Dufresne said they issued the request in 15 counties in Lower Michigan due to dry conditions and the high wind forecast. “It will help give fire departments a bit of a break,” he said. “People get out there to do a little burn, and the next thing you know, gusts of wind come up and whoosh! It gets out of control.”

According to the National Weather Service, the high to very high fire danger already in place across Lower Michigan will only get worse into this coming weekend. Temperatures are expected to reach 80 degrees at most inland locations by Friday afternoon, and breezy conditions will accompany the near record warmth.

Several fires have also been burning in the Upper and Northern Lower Peninsula. Snow has melted quickly in Michigan, setting the stage for what could be a bad wildfire season with lots of dry, dead grasses and vegetation exposed.

Land management agencies offer these safety tips to help keep wildfires from being started and from spreading:

  • Contact your local fire agency before burning to obtain information about the burning regulations in your area. State law requires a permit for open burning whenever the ground is not snow-covered, even on your own property. Most areas do not allow burning on warm, dry, and windy days.
  • All burn barrels must be covered with a weighted metal cover, with holes no larger than 3/4 of an inch.
  • Do not throw smoking materials (cigars, cigarettes, matches, etc.) out of a moving vehicle. They may ignite dry grass on the side of the road and produce a wildfire.
  • Extinguish all outdoor fires properly, if outdoor fires are allowed. Drown fires with plenty of water and stir to make sure everything is cold to the touch. Dunk charcoal in water until cold. Do not throw live charcoal on the ground and leave it.
  • Never leave a fire unattended. Sparks or embers can blow into leaves or grass, ignite a fire, and quickly spread.

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