It’s wildfire season in Michigan
The Cedar Springs Fire Department responded to their first grass fire of the season Tuesday, April 12, shortly after 6 p.m. in Nelson Township.
The call came in saying that the backyard and side yard were burning at 5316 18 Mile Rd, just west of Ritchie.
According to Cedar Springs Fire Chief Jerry Gross, the homeowner was burning yard waste that got out control. There was no burn permit registered to the residence.
“It’s just dry enough, and not yet green enough, that conditions are right for this to happen,” said Chief Gross. “We were lucky that the wind was in our favor.”
Then on Wednesday, April 13, Solon Township, Cedar Springs, and Sand Lake Fire Departments all fought a fire on Algoma, between 20 and 21 Mile. That call came in about 2:15, saying that a truck, trailer with a propane tank, RV, and the grass was all on fire and spreading. The departments got it under control quickly, but it was close to press time, and Solon Deputy Fire Chief Brian VanderLaan did not yet have details on how the fire started.
Grass fires were popping up all over Kent County Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Department of Natural Resources issued a bulletin last week about the danger of wildfires right now. “Spring is wildfire season in Michigan,” said Paul Kollmeyer, DNR’s fire prevention specialist based in Cadillac. “Dead grass and other vegetation are exposed when the snow melts, and quickly dry under windy warm conditions creating a tinder fuel that easily ignites. This dead vegetation, coupled with a lack of moisture, creates a perfect mix for high wildfire danger.”
The long range forecast models for Michigan show expected average temperatures and rainfall for Michigan this spring, he noted.
“It is always a day-to-day situation during spring fire season in Michigan,” Kollmeyer said. “Even if we have average temperatures and rainfall, there will always be several dry, windy days that cause problems if a fire happens to start in the right place at the right time.”
The DNR reminds Michigan citizens to use extreme caution with fire this spring, especially when doing yard or property cleanup work, or if enjoying a spring camping or hunting trip. Several significant wildfires in the past few years were started by these human activities. Consider composting or mulching brush and yard waste. Michigan State University County Extension offices, local garden clubs or local waste reduction authorities, are all good sources for information on composting.
“This year is another critical year for us in terms of wildfire suppression,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “Weather conditions, historic low number of active fire officers and more people getting outdoors, all combine to make springtime in Michigan dangerous for wildfires. We need the public’s help to prevent wildfires, and urge everyone to do their part by using extreme caution when burning brush, leaves or enjoying a campfire.”
Kollmeyer reminds residents that burning brush legally in the state of Michigan requires a burn permit. In southern Michigan, burn permits and information on burning can be obtained from local fire departments and township offices.
Spring outdoor activities many times include cooking and campfires. Without proper precaution, fires can escape, causing a wildfire. The following tips can help prevent a fire from escaping:
• Keep campfires small, and do not leave before they are extinguished.
• Clear away flammable material surrounding the fire so it cannot ignite dry vegetation.
• Be sure and douse with plenty of water, stir, and add more water until everything is wet.
• Turn over unburned pieces and wet the underside.
• Do not just cover a campfire with soil; it could smolder and remain hot for hours and then come back to life when everyone is gone.
For more information on wildfire prevention in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr-fire.