CADILLAC, Mich.The Huron-Manistee National Forests reminds residents that the weather may be deceiving but wildfire season is here.
“While we are experiencing precipitation in the form of rain and snow, conditions can easily change in one day from no fire danger to low fire danger,” said Huron-Manistee National Forests Fire Management Officer Joe Alyea. “With winds and sunshine following the rainy days, surface fuels will dry and be susceptible to wildfire,” he added.
Alyea explained how the sandy soils of Michigan drain moisture away from the surface fuels, lightweight fuels that dry in a short period of time when exposed to sunshine and wind. When in their pre-green up phase, they can carry fire across the landscape very quickly.
“Its very important residents adhere to the burn permitting system set by our state partners pertaining to burning their brush,” Alyea emphasized.
Last week, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources restricted the issuing of burn permits for the foreseeable future while the state manages Covid-19 challenges. According to the state agency responsible for wildfire response, normal operations are anticipated when exposure threats decrease, and other restrictions are lifted.
“Residents can still do other activities to prepare for when the burn permits resume issuance,” stated Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Specialist Debra-Ann Brabazon. “For instance, regardless of the burn permit moratorium, it is always in a homeowner’s best interest to harden their home with easy, no-expense tactics to reduce a potential loss from wildfire.”
Cleaning debris from rain gutters and roof valleys, removing dead brush in flower beds around the home’s foundation, knocking down last year’s wasp and bird’s nests, moving the wood pile away from the house, and removing those piles of leaves and needles accumulating on and under patio decks can reduce the risk of a stray ember starting a house fire. Even thinning brush and trimming trees and vines close to the ground that can carry fire up into the crown of the trees, can reduce the spread of wildfire.
“When homeowners create a 30-foot defensible space area around their home, they are creating a buffer for firefighters to protect their home from a wildfire or protect the wildland from the potential spread of a house fire to the wildland,” Brabazon stated. These practices are called home hardening and are very effective.
Keeping the buffer lean, clean and green also provides first responders a safe area in which to operate when fighting fires close to your property. “It’s important to wrap up that garden hose, put away those tools, and dispose of those scrap metal pieces or abandoned mechanical items that can pose a larger threat to first responders if wildfire ignites near the home,” Brabazon warned., “The smoke from
wildfire is full of harmful gases already. Once inorganic things like plastics and other synthetic materials start on fire it creates more dangerous conditions for firefighters.”
Debris burning and unattended campfires are not the only cause of wildfires this time of year, Brabazon said. “Powerlines pose a threat this time of year when winds pick up and potentially down weakened limbs or trees causing powerlines to arc or snap, leading to a potential wildfire. Never attempt to resolve the issue yourself,” she said, “Call your local power company to report the hazard.”
By properly addressing anything that can burn within 100 feet of a home, homeowners can reduce the risk of a wildfire spreading to their home. “At a minimum, residents should at least check their 911 identifiable house number to ensure that it is in good condition and located at the end of their driveway. It must be visible to emergency responders from the road. Having the number anywhere but your driveway can lead to confusion and delay emergency responders,” reminded Brabazon.
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