Dry conditions, hot temperatures raise fire danger

Enjoying this year’s relatively dry, warm summer in the Upper Peninsula? It has made for great conditions for festivals and other events, along with recreation, camping and, if you insist, working on outdoor projects.

Unfortunately, it’s perfect weather for wildfires as well.

Even if the grass near you looks green, the days of sun and high temperatures have sucked most of the moisture from this year’s grass and completely dried last year’s growth, greatly increasing the risk of fire, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

That means we should all take extra precautions to prevent accidentally starting fires, such as waiting to burn debris and not using all-terrain vehicles, lawn mowers or other outdoor machinery, the DNR warned Wednesday.

“The layer of decomposing leaves and grasses in the ground has dried out,” said Paul Rogers, fire prevention specialist with the DNR. “That means fires that do ignite will burn down into the soils layer, making it harder — and more time-consuming — to put the fire out.”

In very dry conditions, heat from even a lawn mower or the exhaust pipe of an ATV can ignite dry grass, Rogers said. Things like a trailer chain dragging on pavement also can create sparks.

The driest areas in the state currently extend from I-96 north to the Mackinac Bridge in the Lower Peninsula, and from M-35 east to Drummond Island in the Upper Peninsula. The dry area is expected to extend south to the I-94 corridor as the weekend approaches.

Several areas in the eastern Upper Peninsula have experienced fires this week, including a 32-acre blaze in the Hessel area that is requiring extended mop-up efforts. There have been several other, smaller fires across the state.

There is currently no burn ban in effect. However, burn permits will not be issued in the northern Lower Peninsula or Upper Peninsula until significant rainfall is received, Rogers said. People in the southern Lower Peninsula must check with local units of government to see if it is safe before burning.

Campfires, for now, still are allowed. However, normal safety rules apply: Keep water or sand on hand to put out the fire if needed, never leave a fire unattended and make sure to thoroughly extinguish all fires.

For more information on burn permits and whether they are being issued, check online to michigan.gov/burnpermit or call 866-922-2876.

To learn more about fire management in Michigan, go to michigan.gov/firemanagement.