October 20, 2014

Dry weather and fireworks can be dangerous mix, says DNR

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
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ARENAC COUNTY — Between dry conditions across the state and relaxed state laws toward fireworks, the stage is set for unintentional fires, according to officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Stray sparks from fireworks shot into the air can ignite dry grass, wheat, or trees, which can rapidly escalate to a full-blown fire emergency, according to Chris Damvelt, fire supervisor with the DNR’s Gladwin office.

“We haven’t had a good rain in a week or so,” Damvelt said. “If you shoot fireworks into the air you have to consider, ‘Will it land and cause a fire?’”

Damvelt said avoiding forests and fields is not necessarily enough to prevent fires, as they can start in a space like a backyard and spread to other property.

“The safest way would be not to do it,” Damvelt said about shooting off fireworks.

Bill O’Neill, acting chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division, released a press statement June 27 that said fireworks that fly into the air or explode are the cause of many wildfires each year, and should only be used in areas free of vegetation. He also warned people to be extra careful with campfires to make sure they are completely out by wetting them until no more steam is produced.

“We are heading into our toughest season, with prolonged periods of very warm to hot temperatures and minimal rainfall,” O’Neill said in a statement. “I am asking everyone who plans to be outdoors enjoying our beautiful state this summer to be vigilant about protecting it, too.”

Michigan is entering drought conditions in the southern portion of the state, while some areas to the north have received enough moisture to stave off those conditions for the time being.

Damvelt said people should keep track of the state’s burn conditions, released daily by the DNR, to determine if conditions are acceptable to shoot off fireworks.

Standish Area Fire Authority Chief Mitch Oliver said it is important to be mindful of high winds, and to stay clear of fields and structures when using fireworks.

Oliver said after a good run of rain, grass would not be as dry as something like wheat, but it is still important to know weather conditions before setting off fireworks.

He recommended making sure there is supervision for any fireworks being set off, especially for children, to try and prevent injury.

“Try to make sure you’re setting them off in a safe direction,” Oliver said. “The key to it is using common sense.”

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