DNR urges awareness, caution during Wildfire Prevention Week

When it comes to fire safety in Michigan, making smart, sensible decisions in the outdoors is always a good idea. During Wildfire Prevention Week – April 15-21 – the Department of Natural Resources is stressing the importance of preventing wildfire during the state’s critical spring fire season.


Wildfire Prevention Week is observed annually during the third full week of April in order to focus attention on the increased wildfire risk that typically occurs during this period.


“Late April and early May are when Michigan experiences the greatest threat of large and destructive fires,” said Bill O’Neil, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “Many people don’t realize that most of our state’s wildfires occur during the spring or that – even more surprising – more than 90 percent of Michigan’s wildfires are caused by people.”


“Increased outdoor activity and a forest abundant with flammable leaves, needles and dead grass are cause for everyone’s concern,” O’Neil added. “Combine warm, windy days with people engaged in outdoor activities and the risk of wildfire elevates.”


History shows that careless burning of debris is the source of most wildfires across Michigan. The good news is that with a little planning, everyone can help ensure safe burning before a single match is lit.


Paul Kollmeyer, DNR fire prevention specialist, reminds residents that brush burning in Michigan requires a burn permit. In the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, residents can get a free burn permit online at www.michigan.gov/burnpermit. Anyone without Internet access can call toll-free at 866-922-2876. In southern Michigan, residents can obtain burn permits and information on burning from local fire departments and township offices.


Popular springtime outdoor activities include cooking and campfires. Without proper precaution, Kollmeyer said these types of fires can escape and result in a wildfire. He offered the following tips on preventing a small, controlled fire from escaping and turning into a potentially deadly situation: 

Clear away flammable material surrounding the fire so it won’t creep into dry vegetation.

Keep campfires small and don’t leave before they are extinguished. Douse the fire area with plenty of water, stir and add more water until everything is wet. Turn over unburned pieces and wet the underside.

Do not cover a campfire with soil, because it may simply smolder before re-igniting.

Consider composting or mulching yard debris as an alternative to burning it.

“When considering these simple tips, the public can play a big part in preventing wildfires by exercising great caution when burning brush and leaves or enjoying a campfire this spring,” Kollmeyer said. “It just takes a few extra minutes to ensure your small campfire doesn’t turn into a dangerous situation.”


For more information on wildfire safety, open burning, home preparedness and other fire-related topics, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.