As residents and out-of-state visitors prepare to camp, bike and hike throughout Michigan over the Fourth of July holiday season, Department of Natural Resources officials warn that wildfire danger will vary greatly in different areas of the state and urge caution and common sense, accordingly, with fireworks and campfires.
Summer heat and inconsistent rainfall in the past month have pushed parts of Michigan into emerging drought conditions in the south, while portions of the northern regions have received some beneficial moisture – temporarily moderating what has already been a severe fire season.
So far this year, the DNR has responded to 339 fires that have burned a total of 23,122 acres – including the recent 21,069-acre Duck Lake Fire in the eastern Upper Peninsula.
“Anytime the weather is consistently hot and dry during a holiday period, there is a potential for wildfires,” said Bill O’Neill, acting chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “With so many visitors in the woodlands and campgrounds, the chances of a wildfire igniting greatly increase.”
Forecasts from the National Weather Service back up the DNR’s concerns. Although a slight cold front is expected to move through Thursday night into Friday morning, with a chance of storms, the coverage and amounts will be quite limited. At this time, the National Weather Service does not see a significant chance of beneficial rains through the next 10 days in Michigan.
The DNR’s O’Neill urged Michigan citizens and visitors to be extremely careful when handling fireworks and outdoor fires. He offered the following reminders:
- Remember that consumer fireworks that explode or fly into the air, when improperly used, are the cause of many wildfires each year. These types of fireworks can now be purchased in Michigan.
- Be aware that fireworks will easily ignite grass or wooded areas and should only be lit in areas free of vegetation.
- Understand that setting off fireworks on public property is prohibited without proper authorization.
- Keep campfires small and do not leave them unattended at any time, for any reason.
- Be certain all fires and barbeques are completely extinguished. Use plenty of water, stir and add more water until everything is wet and no steam is produced.
- Turn over unburned pieces of wood left in a fire pit and wet the underside.
- Soak unburned pieces of BBQ charcoal in a bucket of water before disposing of them.
- Do not simply cover a campfire with soil. This is an inadequate way to put a fire out, disguises the heat smoldering beneath and often becomes a hazard for anyone that may accidentally step in the coals.
“We are heading into our toughest season, with prolonged periods of very warm to hot temperatures and minimal rainfall,” said O’Neill. “I am asking everyone who plans to be outdoors enjoying our beautiful state this summer to be vigilant about protecting it, too. Be smart, be safe and, please, be caretakers of Michigan’s outdoor spaces.”
Those interested in checking on the status of dry conditions in Michigan and other parts of the country can check the National Drought Mitigation Center’s drought monitor website at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/.
Logo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources