2012 Michigan spring wildfires have surpassed 2011 state wildfire totals

Though the spring wildfire season has ended in Michigan, landowners are advised to take action on their property in preparation for the fall wildfire season in view of the number and damage of this season’s wildfires.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) reports that 116 wildfires occurred throughout the state during all of 2011. This year, 336 wildfires have already been reported as of mid-June. Of those 336 wildfires, MDNR indicates 255 fires occurred in the Lower Peninsula and consumed 1648.7 acres. The remaining 81 fires occurred in the Upper Peninsula and consumed 21,467 acres.

Though it is rare that a Michigan wildfire is started by lightning, two Upper Peninsula wildfires this spring were attributed to lightning strikes. The most notable was the Duck Lake Fire in Luce County. While lightning was responsible for causing four percent of the Michigan wildfires to date in 2012, lightning caused an astounding 93 percent of the acres burned this year. As might be suspected, the majority of the Upper Peninsula acreage burned occurred in the Duck Lake Fire.

Fighting a wildfire of that magnitude in a remote area that lacked good access roads and infrastructure made the situation even more difficult. More than 300 people were involved in the fire suppression effort with personnel and equipment provided by MDNR, numerous volunteer fire departments, Wisconsin and Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan National Guard and Keweenaw Bay Indian community.

Other agencies providing assistance and support include Michigan State Police, Luce County Sheriff Department and Emergency Management, Chippewa County Sheriff Department, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, United States Department of Agriculture, the US Forest Service and Bay Mills Indian community.

MDNR reported an outpouring of support and expressions of appreciation by citizens and local businesses in Newberry, Luce County and the entire region for those fighting the fire on their behalf.

The MDNR is currently working with landowners affected by the fire to share information on assistance programs for remediating their property. Some landowners may qualify for federal assistance through the Forest Stewardship Program or the Emergency Forest Restoration Program.

In collaboration with Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Services Agency, Luce County Emergency Management and other agencies, the MDNR is holding a public meeting June 26 for landowners affected by the Duck Lake Fire. In addition to learning about financial assistance to help with removing burned trees, landowners will receive information about replanting their property with trees, fixing damaged roads and driveways, and other actions they can take to protect their property during wildfires. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension staff will be present with an educational display and handout materials that explain steps landowners can take to better protect their property from future wildfire.

Though the burning ban in 49 counties and fireworks ban in Luce and Schoolcraft counties that Governor Snyder ordered on May 25 was rescinded on June 6, Michigan residents and visitors are cautioned to be extremely careful when doing any outdoor burning or using fireworks. Please check the MDNR website before doing any outdoor burning. The site is updated daily by 10 a.m. indicating for every county in the state whether outdoor burning is permitted that day.

More information about educational Firewise programming offered by MSU Extension is available online.

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