Be alert to higher wildfire dangers

Winter in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northern third of the Lower Peninsula saw less than average snowfall this year, which will likely mean high wildfire danger in the state, according to the Department of Natural Resources DNR.

Lesser amounts of snow in the U.P. and northern Lower Peninsula means snow-free conditions will occur earlier in the spring and there will be less moisture in the woodlands going into fire season, said Paul Kollmeyer, DNR’s fire prevention specialist based in Cadillac.

“Spring is wildfire season in Michigan. Dead grass and other vegetation are exposed when the snow melts, and quickly dry under windy warm conditions creating a tinder fuel that easily ignites,” Kollmeyer said. “This dead vegetation, coupled with a lack of moisture, creates a perfect mix for high wildfire danger.”

The long range forecast models for Michigan show expected average temperatures and rainfall for Michigan this spring, Kollmeyer said.

The DNR reminds Michigan citizens to use extreme caution with fire this spring, especially when doing yard or property cleanup work, or if enjoying a spring camping or hunting trip. Several significant wildfires in the past few years were started by these human activities. Consider composting or mulching brush and yard waste. Michigan State University County Extension offices, local garden clubs or local waste reduction authorities, are all good sources for information on composting.

Kollmeyer reminds residents that burning brush legally in the state of Michigan requires a burn permit. In the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, property owners can obtain a free DNR burn permit online at www.michigan.gov/burnpermit. Persons without Internet access can call toll-free at (866) 922-2876. In southern Michigan, burn permits and information on burning can be obtained from local fire departments and township offices.

Spring outdoor activities many times include cooking and campfires. Without proper precaution, fires can escape, causing a wildfire. The following tips can help prevent a fire from escaping:

•Keep campfires small, and do not leave before they are extinguished;

n Clear away flammable material surrounding the fire so it cannot ignite dry vegetation;

•Be sure and douse with plenty of water, stir, and add more water until everything is wet;

•Turn over unburned pieces and wet the underside;

•Do not just cover a campfire with soil; it could smolder and remain hot for hours and then come back to life when everyone is gone.