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DNR fire crews respond to wildfires May 1

 

Three major blazes in Crawford, Newaygo and Wexford counties

Michigan Department of Natural Resources fire personnel spent much of the overnight May 1 and early-morning hours May 2 working to contain several wildfires, including three that were significant.

The one nearest our area was the “Oak fire.” It was reported at approximately 6:45 p.m. south of M-82 in Newaygo County, just over 6 miles east of Newaygo. The estimated 105-acre fire, located primarily on federal land, was contained at around 1 a.m. Wednesday. Fire crews stopped the head of the fire before it reached M-82, although the flanks of the fire were still very active. This fire burned primarily in mature pine and oak. Two residences were evacuated and 15 structures were threatened, but excellent work by 11 local volunteer fire departments, U.S. Forest Service crews and DNR fire crews resulted in all of the structures being saved. The fire initially caused the closure of M-82 between Elm and Spruce, which has since reopened. Fire crews continued fire-suppression and mop-up efforts throughout Wednesday. 

The Grayling Fire was reported at approximately 4 p.m. Tuesday along I-75 in southern Crawford County, about 7 miles south of Grayling. The fire jumped the southbound lane of I-75 and stopped when it hit the northbound lane. As a result, a stretch of I-75 was shut down for about an hour and a half. DNR crews contained the fire, estimated to be just over 44 acres in size. 

The Bond Mill Pond Fire was reported shortly before 5 p.m. in Haring Township, Wexford County, approximately 5 miles north/northwest of Cadillac. The fire was contained and is estimated at 79 acres with 2.8 miles of perimeter around the fire. A majority of the fire burned on state forest land. The fire burned a variety of fuel types including scotch, red, and jack pine; leaf litter; hardwoods, and aspen. The fire caused the evacuation of 79 residences, but all were allowed to return home the same evening. A U.S. Forest Service helicopter provided air support for the fire-suppression efforts and dropped 1,600 gallons of water before being grounded due to high winds. Fire crews continued fire-suppression and mop-up efforts throughout the day Wednesday. 

The cause of all three fires is unknown and currently under investigation. 

After the fire in Newaygo.
Post photo by M. Kleyn

Red flag fire conditions Tuesday across the northern Lower Peninsula resulted in an active day for wildfires throughout the area. Red flag fire warnings are issued when weather conditions are expected to include strong winds, warm temperatures and low relative humidity—a combination that can lead to very high or extreme fire danger. 

Weather Wednesday significantly assisted in the fire-suppression efforts, as both the Bond Mill Pond and Oak fires received rainfall in the morning. Although rain is forecast for the next few days, fire danger will pick up again with any significant stretches of dry weather.

“These fires were contained as a result of the hard work and excellent cooperation of multiple agencies,” said Jim Fisher, the DNR’s state wildland fire supervisor, citing the efforts of the DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, Michigan State Police, the Department of Transportation, Wexford County Emergency Operations, Newaygo County Emergency Operations, the Crawford County Road Commission, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Life EMS and several volunteer fire departments.

The public is reminded to take precautions when doing yard work this spring. Be sure to check local weather and fire danger before burning debris, and always check to see if a burn permit is required for local areas. Other safety tips include burning debris in barrels with metal screens, clearing vegetation around burn areas, ensuring a water source is nearby, and staying with a fire until it is completely extinguished. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/firemanagement.  

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