Spring is wildfire season

The 2015 wildfire season is keeping many fire departments busy managing local grass fires. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, most are the result of human activities.

Exposed dry grasses and other vegetation left from last fall increase the chances for wildfires throughout the state. Some people think that the hot dry days of summer are the time for the most wildfires. This thinking is wrong. It is, in fact, the unique conditions of springtime that make Michigan more susceptible to wildfire ignition.

A recent example of this is a wildfire in Branch County, Michigan that started with a neighbor burning leaves. Winds sent hot ashes into the neighboring grass that caught fire, went on to burn a barn and then on to burn six automobiles at a nearby auto dealership. Another devastating example occurred in Constantine Michigan where a grassfire spread to a home also burning several nearby autos and a home.

There are an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 wildfires annually in Michigan. Many of these are small and burn between 5 and 50 acres. Michigan’s active time for wildfires is in the spring and most wildfires are the result of human activity. Large fires consume thousands of acres and destroy hundreds of homes annually. Though most of these larger fires are rare in Michigan, they can occur. Protect your home and property from wildfires by creating a defensible space around your dwelling and other outbuildings.

Steps to take to help create a defensible space from wildfires:

  • Trim trees 6-8 feet from the ground
  • Clean up tree litter from around landscaping and neighboring trees
  • Don’t burn yard waste; compost instead
  • Keep your grass mowed to about 4 inches high
  • Clean your gutters of leaves twigs and other fallen debris

Michigan State University Extension educators working across Michigan provide Wildfire and Firewise educational programming and assistance.

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