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HomeOutdoorsUSDA Forest Service aerial resources for critical wildfire conditions

USDA Forest Service aerial resources for critical wildfire conditions

REGION- The Huron-Manistee National Forests (HMNFs) have relocated aerial firefighting resources to the Wexford County airport in Cadillac, Michigan in response to the latest uptick in wildfires across the Northern Lower Peninsula. With the National Weather Service announcing Red Flag conditions, it is imperative that the public be aware that their activities outside could spark a wildfire.

Last Tuesday, federal wildland firefighting resources responded to seven fires that burned over 100 acres. Two structures were lost yesterday in the Three Mile wildfire in Lake County. Initial attack resources provided structure protection upon arrival while fours Single Engine Airtankers (SEATs) provided aerial support, assisting ground resources with suppression efforts.

Forest Fire Management Officer Kevin Reese stated that a majority of their annual wildfire response is attributed to wildfires caused by debris burning. “With the onset of nice weather, residents are out cleaning up limbs and leaves, and they’re burning their yard litter that has accumulated over the winter,” said Reese.

Reese reported that since the first day of Spring this year, the HMNFs have responded to 30 fires for 183 acres. Seven of those fires on Tuesday contributed to 120 acres of the current total.

On Tuesday, the HMNFs sent resources to the Three Mile Fire in Sauble Township Lake County. Initial attack resources immediately requested air support from the aerial firefighting base in Gaylord where the USDA Forest Service has prepositioned four SEATs and a Type 3 Helicopter for wildfire aerial suppression support for the Great Lakes Region. The helicopter was flown to Cadillac today to provide faster response to the west side of the Lower Peninsula.

Fuels Officer Brian Stearns said, “Yesterday we noted that there was a lot of wind driven surface burning with a very fast rate of spread. Local winds were blowing leaves across the line with active embers, spreading the fire beyond our control lines.” Stearns noted that this significant spotting of fire across the line demonstrates that conditions are such, that larger fires can easily occur through wind driven ignition sources, such as burning leaves and embers from the main fire.

“Be careful with any activities that could potentially lead to a wildfire, “ stated Public Information Officer Travis Owens. Owens noted that such activities as recreation and debris burning hold the highest risk for human caused wildfires. “Now would be a good time to mitigate the spread of a fire to your property. Cut your brush smaller and stack it in small piles, maybe even consider chipping instead of burning. Clean your gutters and the valleys and ridges of your roof to prevent a stray ember from a burn pile or wildfire from landing in an area with ignitable material and starting a house fire.” Additional activities around your home would be to compost those leaves just raked up and move the woodpile off the porch to more than 30 feet away from any structure and cover it.

Owens noted that before you recreate check your equipment:

  • Check your recreational vehicles, looking for low tire pressure where rims could touch hard surfaces, potentially sparking a wildfire.
  • Lift dragging chains on trailer hitches by twisting to avoid dragging.
  • Inspect your spark arrestors on All-Terrain Vehicles and other combustion engines, including chainsaws. Replace if they are showing wear.

“While warming fires and cooking fires are still permitted, it is imperative that all fires be dead out and cold to the touch. “Drown, stir, and feel with the back of your hand to see if you have properly extinguished your fire,” Owens explained. He added that you may hear crackling , popping and hissing. “If it is still making sounds and ‘talking’, then your fire is still warm enough to dry out and rekindle, which can potentially lead to a wildfire.” Owens added that keeping a bucket, shovel and even a charged garden hose next to the fire pit is a faster response to the event of an escaped fire. “If you lit it, stay with it. Never leave the fire unattended or supervised by inexperienced persons.”

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