Warm summer temperatures and a lack of moisture throughout Michigan have created ongoing high fire-danger conditions.
With predictions for more warm weather, and few chances of widespread rain over the Labor Day weekend, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources urges residents to be cautious when lighting, enjoying and extinguishing their outdoor fires.
"Our forests will be heavily visited throughout the state by residents and travelers looking to make the most of the weather and our last summer holiday," said Bill O'Neill, chief of the DNR's Forest Resources Division.
"Fire danger has been high since the spring and low moisture means that people should be extra cautious when enjoying outdoor activities that include fires," O'Neill said in a statement. "We are urging everyone to be safe during the long weekend to reduce the chance of a small fire escaping to become a wildfire."
So far in 2012, the DNR has responded to 443 wildfires that have burned more than 23,376 acres.
Paul Kollmeyer, DNR fire prevention specialist, indicated the northern region of Michigan will experience the highest wildfire potential until wet weather moves in and reduces the risk.
"Improperly extinguishing campfire coals and embers is a leading cause of wildfires," Kollmeyer said. "Taking simple precautions will help prevent small fires from getting out of hand and causing major damage."
The DNR recommends following these precautions to ensure fire safety:
- Clear away flammable material surrounding the fire so it won't creep into dry vegetation.
- Never leave any fire unattended, even for a moment.
- Keep all campfires and debris fires small. Have water available in case your fire begins to flare up.
- If your fire does escape, call 911 immediately before attempting to put it out.
- When you are done with your fire, drown it with plenty of water. Wet everything thoroughly, especially the undersides of unburned pieces. Stir the ashes to find any hot embers and wet everything again.
- Do not simply bury your fire; soil will act as an insulating blanket masking the heat beneath the surface.
- Always make sure fires are completely out. Carelessness and improperly extinguished coals are a leading cause of escapes.
- Be careful with matches. Keep all matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children. In only 10 percent of the child-caused fires do children have to work to obtain matches or a lighter.
- Parents, caution your children about playing with matches or lighters. Teach them that fire is a useful tool, not a plaything. Also teach them to report any fire they see, or any child playing with fire, to an adult.