Firewise program helps save lives and reduce property loss

Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Firewise Communities Project is part of a national effort to educate homeowners and local officials about the risk of wildfires and steps they can take to protect lives and property.

People migrating from urban to rural areas of Michigan may be moving into potential wildfire zones without even knowing it. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) estimates that 8,000 to 10,000 wildfires occur annually throughout the state. While most of these are small wildfires, burning between five and fifty acres, many wildfires exceed 100 acres and some have consumed thousands of acres. In addition, each year 100 to 200 Michigan homes and buildings are either lost or damaged due to wildfire.

According to the MDNR, more than 90% of Michigan wildfires are caused by human behavior with one-third to one-half of Michigan wildfires a result of people burning debris. Because most Michigan wildfires are caused by human activities rather than lightning or other natural phenomena, the number of wildfires and losses can be significantly reduced if residents take the precautions recommended by the Firewise program.

With funding provided by USDA Forest Service Hazard Mitigation grants, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and MDNR have collaborated since 2002 to provide information addressing this issue. Educational presentations, exhibits, and written materials are available to communities interested in learning about and planning for wildfire prevention. Residents can learn how to create defensible space around their own home and how to insure they have provided adequate access for emergency vehicles to reach their home should a wildfire occur.

To learn more about the Michigan Firewise Communities project, visit www.firewise.msu.edu