The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and its cooperators are observing Wildfire Prevention Week April 16-22. Most wildfires on Michigan’s 20 million acres of state and private forest land occur in April, May and June.
“Michigan typically experiences some of its higher fire conditions during the spring,” said Bryce Avery, DNR fire prevention specialist. “The dead grass and leaves from last year dry very quickly as days become longer, temperatures begin to rise, and humidity levels are often at their lowest points. Breezy conditions increase the danger, but even on calm days, one ember landing in some dead grass is enough to start a wildfire.”
Warm spring weather increases the amount of outdoor activities, like yard cleanup, campfires and fireworks. All of these activities require planning and caution before and after fires are lit.
“To dispose of yard waste, consider composting, but if you are planning on burning yard debris, your first step should be to check if the DNR is issuing burn permits in your area,” said Avery.
Burn permits are required prior to burning brush and debris in Michigan when the ground is not snow-covered. Residents in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula can obtain a free burn permit by visiting www.michigan.gov/burnpermit or by calling 866-922-2876. Residents in southern Michigan should contact their local fire department or township office to see if burning is permitted in their area.
In addition to obtaining a burn permit, the DNR recommends people take the following steps to help prevent wildfires:
- Pay attention to the fire danger in your area. Don’t burn debris when conditions are dry or windy. Unsafe burning of leaves, brush and other debris is the main cause of wildfires.
- 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.
- Have a shovel and water available at all times when you are burning. Be sure to 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.
Historically, debris burning has been the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Michigan.
For more tips in safeguarding your home and property from wildfire risk, please visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.