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Settlement reached in 2008 wildfire near Grayling

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment announced that a Saginaw- based railroad company will reimburse $274,209 to the state and other agencies for fire suppression costs and damages resulting from wildfires occurring along its rail tracks in April of 2008.

The Four Mile fire – the largest among those for which the Attorney General brought charges — threatened the city of Grayling, burned several structures and charred 1,300 surrounding acres. That wildfire also closed Interstate 75 and cut off power to much of the area.

Lake State Railway pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of operating equipment without a spark arrestor in both Arenac and Crawford counties. A more serious charge of willfully setting fires was dismissed. Judges in each county imposed fines which together totaled $1,250 and placed Lake State on probation for one year while also ordering them to follow fire prevention guidelines laid out in a plan designed to reduce the chances wildfires will occur through future railway operations.

“We are pleased with the outcome,” said Lynne Boyd, chief of DNRE’s Forest Management Division Chief “Each fire department and police agency responding to the Four Mile fire will recover their costs.  The DNRE will receive compensation of $155,000 in suppression expenses and $76,000 for a destroyed vehicle and timber damaged on state land.”

Boyd went on to point out the importance of the wildfire prevention plan, saying, “The preventive actions agreed to include a number of measures which will reduce the risk of wildfires starting along the railroad tracks.” She added, “Lake State Railway has shown an increased dedication to preventing wildfires by implementing many portions of the plan even prior to the courts’ final rulings.”

A separate civil case against Lake State involving additional private property damage is still pending in Crawford County.

For more information about wildfires in Michigan, including prevention tips and information, go to  www.michigan.gov/firemanagement.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment is committed to the conservation, protection, management, and accessible use and enjoyment of the state’s environment, natural resources, and related economic interests for current and future generations. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/dnre.

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