Forest fires fuel awareness

Firefighters remind residents to practice fire safety


STANDISH — With the news of the Meridian Fire in Crawford County burning through 8,790 acres and the Range Six Fire in Kalkaska County flaming through 1,039 area firefighters are hoping that the only flames that are fanned in Arenac County are one of fire awareness.

Though no deaths have been reported, the fire in Crawford county alone has destroyed 12 residences, along with damaging two more, and destroying or damaging 39 outbuildings as of Thursday, May 20.

With the Michigan flames making local headlines, many may wonder what precautions they need to take when they plan something like a campfire so it doesn’t get out of control.

“The current fire danger for Northern Michigan is high. As the winds pick up then you will go to very high. The next level is extremely high,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment Press Secretary Mary Dettloff about the fire danger as of May 21. “If they can hold off from doing any kind of fire, we would appreciate it. If the fire does escape, don’t try and be a hero. Call 911.”

Standish Fire Authority Chief Mitch Oliver also said that it is very important for people to think about what they are burning in their fire since different fuels like cardboard and newspaper can give off burning ashes that can float away and start another fire.

He said he tells people that popping wood can spread dangerous fire-starting sparks.

“It is really important for people to think about what they have in their fire. The biggest culprit is pine,” he said about wood sources that are known to create sparks. “If you have something popping then pull it out. Conditions are important.”

Dettloff also mentioned that it is very important for people to think about up-to-the-minute conditions if they plan on having a fire.

“If you go and have a campfire, the number one thing is that you shouldn’t have it on a windy day,” she said. “Things are much, much drier up north.”

Dettloff also recommends that citizens have a ready-to-use source of water at all times just in case something goes wrong.

“Have a charged water hose ready,” said the DNRE employee who works in Lansing. “Douse the fire with water, not sand or dirt or anything, and turn the logs over and wet both sides.”

Though many may not think about it, riding a four-wheeler or another off-road vehicle can give off sparks that could start large fires.

According to Dettloff, riders can prevent this from happening by buying a spark arrester kit at their local ORV dealers.

“If you have to go ORV’ing this weekend, we just want people to get spark arresters,” she said. “It’s a little device that makes sure sparks don’t fall to the ground.”

Due to the Meridian Fire, residents of Hilltop Manor senior home in Roscommon had to be evacuated. Twenty of those were moved for a couple of days last week to MediLodge of Sterling giving the moved residents and the senior care employees a first hand account of how fires can affect people.

“They were told to evacuate. Five that we got were hospice and 15 were regular patients that just needed to be moved,” said MediLodge employee Kelly Kimball about the patients who moved back to their home early Friday, May 20. “We didn’t have any instances. To have the ability to take people in at 10:30 at night was just unbelievable. The whole thing could not have gone any better.”

With fire danger always a possibility, Oliver said that people should always stay by their fire.

“If someone is careless and causes a fire, it puts all of the firefighters at risk, and all of the land at risk,” he said. “Everything that you do can have a negative reaction.”


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