Protect your Great Lake shoreline home from wildfires

Managing dune grass, providing defensible space and maintaining access roads can reduce the risk of your lakeshore home being damaged or destroyed.

Owners of property and homes along the Great Lakes shoreline may find the newest Michigan State University Extension bulletin in their Wildfire Series a great resource. This new publication, E3203, “Protect Your Great Lakes Shoreline Home From Wildfires”, is now available at the MSU Extension online bookstore. Your may download a pdf of the bulletin or have a copy mailed to you. A small fee will be charged to cover shipping & handling if you choose to have a copy mailed. Though the publication focuses on Great Lakes shoreline properties, those with inland lake property might also find the recommendations helpful.

This bulletin, authored by Mark Hansen, is the fourth in the Wildfire Series. The first publication, E2831, “Protect Your Michigan Home From Wildfire”, was authored by Don Johnson, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and edited by Georgia Peterson, MSU Extension. The second publication in the series, E2882, “Understanding Wildfire Behavior in Michigan”, was co-authored by Hansen and Johnson. Hansen collaborated with R.Thomas Fernandez, MSU Department of Horticulture, and Michael R. Penskar, Michigan Natural Features Inventory to produce the third Wildfire Series publication, E2948, “Wildfire-resistant Landscape Plants for Michigan”.

Some of the recommendations contained in this newest publication can also be found in the earlier bulletins. In all, the authors encourage property-owners to provide defensible space around their homes, keep plants well-watered, and remove dead leaves, branches, and other litter from their roof and beneath any decks. No matter your location, careful use of campfires and fireworks are urged. While providing access for large emergency vehicles is essential in all areas of the state, homes in the dunes along Great Lakes may face additional access issues. Both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior have shoreline that has been designated by state legislation as Critical Dunes Area (CDA). The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) administers the CDA guidelines to protect these fragile environments from erosion and degradation. Any alteration of vegetation or the dunes themselves in a CDA must adhere to these guidelines.

Dune grass, also referred to as beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata), is a native species that helps stabilize the dunes. Unfortunately, it is also very flammable. While you must have a MDEQ permit to actually remove dune grass around your home, it is allowable to trim the grass with a weed whip. Hansen recommends doing this trimming as soon as the snow melts, preferable in February or March. After trimming grass within 5 to 10 feet of your home, rake away and dispose of the dead leaf material.

One caution Hansen offers is to be aware of black-legged ticks (also referred to as deer ticks) that have been found to inhabit dune grass in Michigan. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other illnesses. The Michigan Department of Community Health offers suggestions to protect yourself while in an area where ticks occur.

The three earlier bulletins in the Wildfire Series can be purchased at the Michigan State University Extension online bookstore. Both E2831 and E2882 are also available in Spanish. For those who do not wish to have a professionally printed copy on glossy paper, pdfs of the English language bulletins are available at the MSU Extension Firewise website on the Resources page.

For more information about the MSU Extension Firewise program, contact project director Elaine Bush, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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