Quiet wildfire period in Michigan should be cause for concern

Although the Great Lakes Region has had a couple of relatively quiet wildfire years, homeowners shouldn’t count on this trend continuing. Once normal warm, dry conditions return, they will pose a serious threat.

Camp at risk for fire.
Camp at risk for fire.

The Duck Lake Fire in the spring of 2012 was the last large wildfire event in Michigan. That fire burned over 21,000 acres with the loss of 49 homes and cabins along with many other smaller structures. Since that tragic loss, wildfire events have been relatively quiet in the state. Heavy snows combined with unseasonably late spring melts have significantly reduced the past few years “fire season” threat. Cooler and damper summer growing season following these late springs have also contributed to a reduced wildfire occurrence.

Although reduced loss is a good thing, homeowners shouldn’t become complacent. The quiet period we have been experiencing cannot be counted on to continue. The threat to homes and cabins is really greater than ever due to this quiet time. Without fires and with good growing conditions fuels that feed wildfire have built up and given the right conditions pose a mounting threat of devastating wildfire events.

Adding to this fuel load across much of the northern regions of the state are increasing amounts of dead and dying spruce and fir stands of timber. Spruce budworm numbers have been exploding recently leaving dead skeletons of fuel in place of the vibrant stands of timber that were originally present.

Fall is a good time to assess wildfire vulnerability of your homes, camps and cottages. While there is time now to assess and implement firewise practices around your structures; this window of opportunity may not be there this spring once wildfire season is again a threat.

Mow lawns, prune trees, rake away dead leaves and needles to help create a defensible space around your buildings. Clean debris from roofs and gutters. And check to insure your address or fire number is easily viewable from public roadways.

Michigan State University Extension has a bulletin, E2831 Protect Your Michigan Home from Wildfire, available to help homeowners better understand and assess their structures at-risk potential. The publication contains helpful suggestions for homeowners to consider in providing greater protection from the region’s growing threat of wildland fire. 

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