With wildfire danger expected to be “very high” across northern Michigan this Memorial Day weekend, the Department of Natural Resources asks all residents and travelers in the region to be especially mindful of the weather and their own actions.
Bill O’Neill, acting chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division, said the holiday forecast is predicted to be warm and dry, with little rain expected throughout the period.
“There has been a lack of beneficial moisture in the eastern Upper Peninsula and portions of the Lower Peninsula,” said O’Neill. “Low relative humidity, recent warm temperatures and a persistent dry spell throughout most of Michigan has created a situation where wildfires can easily ignite and spread.”
So far this fire season, the DNR has responded to 275 wildfires that have consumed 25 structures and scorched more than 1,800 acres.
Paul Kollmeyer, DNR fire prevention specialist, confirmed that the majority of escaped wildfires can be traced back to people and a lack of fire prevention planning.
“Simple measures, like keeping water on hand and staying with a fire until it is properly extinguished, will greatly reduce the chances of a fire escaping,” Kollmeyer said. “We are urging everyone to be cautious and to use basic safety measures whenever outdoor activities include the possibility of sparks and flames being near dry wild lands.”
Kollmeyer also noted that, this year, firefighters are particularly concerned that a recent change to Michigan’s fireworks law (allowing bottle rockets and other aerial fireworks to be purchased by the public) will lead to significantly more wildfires.
By keeping the following practices in mind, people can play a big role in reducing fires:
Keep campfires small and stay with your fire at all times. It’s not enough to wait for a campfire’s flame to die down and assume it’s okay to leave or go to bed.
Have water on hand to douse all sparks and embers that may jump from the flames. Use plenty of it to wet the undersides of logs and stir in with the ashes.
Be sure barbecues are completely extinguished. Soak unburned pieces of charcoal in a bucket of water before disposing of them.
“It’s also really important to remember that if you don’t take adequate precautions and a fire escapes to become a wildfire, you can be billed for the suppression costs and the expenses of any damages resulting from the fire,” Kollmeyer explained. “Please, do your part to prevent wildfires and make sure everyone has a great holiday weekend.”
For more information on campfire tips, wildfire prevention, burn permits and fire preparedness, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.