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Watch out for wildfires

The Duck Lake fire burned 21,000 acres of land in spring 2012.

The Duck Lake fire burned 21,000 acres of land in spring 2012.

Spring is here, which means its wildfire season, and the Michigan DNR stresses the importance of preventing fires before they start.

“One out of three wildfires in Michigan is caused by someone burning debris who didn’t take the proper precautions,” said Bill O’Neill, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “There are areas in the southern Lower Peninsula where people are getting outdoors and starting to clean up their yards. With late April and early May being the most prevalent time for large wildfires, we’re urging folks to get their burn permit and be prepared in case their fire escapes. A little prevention can go a long way when it comes to wildfires.”

O’Neill, who also serves as state forester, added that careless debris burning is the source of most wildfires across Michigan, which makes it all the more important to take the time to plan any burning activity before lighting a match.

Cedar Springs Firefighters responded to a brush fire behind this home on Maple Street earlier this week.  Post photo by J. Reed.

Cedar Springs Firefighters responded to a brush fire behind this home on Maple Street earlier this week. Post photo by J. Reed.

Ada Takacs, DNR fire prevention specialist, reminds residents that brush and debris burning in Michigan requires a burn permit. In the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, residents can obtain a free permit online at www.michigan.gov/burnpermit. Those without Internet access can call 866-922-2876, toll-free, to obtain a permit. In southern Michigan, burn permits and information on burning can be obtained from local fire departments and township offices.

Spring activities often include outdoor cooking and campfires as well as yard cleanup. Without proper precaution these fires can escape and cause a wildfire. The following tips can help prevent a fire from escaping:

Clear away flammable material surrounding the fire so it won’t creep into dry vegetation.

Keep campfires small, and do not leave before they are fully extinguished.

Be sure and douse fires with plenty of water, stir, and add more water until everything is wet.

Do not cover a campfire with soil; it may simply smolder before coming back to life.

Embers can re-ignite. Make sure they are out completely.

Consider composting or mulching yard debris rather than burning it.

“A little bit of pre-planning goes a long way,” Takacs said. “We can prevent a majority of Michigan wildfires by following these simple tips.”

Out of the nearly 500 fires the DNR responded to in 2012, two-thirds of them were caused by people’s negligence.

For more fire prevention information and to learn how to protect your home from the effects of a wildfire, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.

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