Firefighters continue to battle island fire

Firefighters continue to battle island fire

FAYETTE — The return of dry weather to the northern Great Lakes increased fire activity of the lightning-caused Poverty Island wildfire that was first reported in late June.

Over the course of the week, the fire consumed 20 acres of the 200-acre island forest. The fire is threatening a historic lighthouse on a small, uninhabited island in Lake Michigan. Sixteen firefighters are working to top the fire’s progress in order to protect the lighthouse. In total, the fire had burned 46 acres.

One strategy firefighters took to protect the lighthouse was to use fire to fight fire, a technique commonly referred to as a burnout operation. In preparation for the burnout, firefighters constructed a brushed-out fireline around the lighthouse and reinforced it with a hose-and-sprinkler system. Firefighters then attempted the burnout to remove vegetation, but rain and humid weather settled in, which prevented the burnout from occurring in mid-July. Firefighters were able to successfully complete the burnout August 8.

Firefighters are using a 28-foot boat from the National Park Service to ferry firefighter and supplies to the island from Fayette State Park on Michigan’s Garden Peninsula. Over the next week, they will be putting out hot spots and monitoring the fire’s edge.

A smoke column rising from the island’s interior may be visible from the Upper Peninsula, northwest Lower Michigan and northeast Wisconsin, especially on hot, dry days. Smoke and occasional torching of timber will occur until winter precipitation and temperatures extinguish the fire.

Foot travel on Poverty Island is treacherous under any circumstances. Post fire hazards, such as standing fire-weakened trees called snags, ash pits and poor footing are extremely dangerous to firefighters and the general public. We ask the public to please stay away from the island until winter is able to fully extinguish the fire.

The lighthouse, which is no longer in use, is under the care of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The island is part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, between the Garden Peninsula and the Door Peninsula of Wisconsin.

(Information Courtesy of the Information Incident System)