On the lookout
McMILLAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) – Fire danger is on the rise in northern Michigan again, one year after a blaze destroyed 31 square miles of forest and marshland in the Upper Peninsula.
The Duck Lake fire was the largest of many wildfires in northern Michigan in 2012, destroying 136 structures in Luce County’s McMillan Township last May. Another fire destroyed 5 square miles in the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in upper Michigan’s Schoolcraft County.
Fire conditions are elevated in some of the same areas, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“It’s not always how much rain in volume you get, but how frequently it occurs. It only takes a couple of days for the effects of the rain to wear off,” Paul Kollmeyer a state resource protection supervisor with the DNR, told The Detroit News. “At the same time, just because it ignites, doesn’t mean it’s going to turn into a large out-of-control wildfire.”
Weather was wetter and cooler than normal this spring, but National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Alumbaugh said the area has dried out enough to make fire a concern.
“It doesn’t take long for things to dry out up here just because of the fuel types and the kinds of vegetation we have here,” Alumbaugh said. “As of right now, we are sitting OK, but we always have to keep an eye out so we don’t go into one of these longer dry spells and get one of these drought-type fires because when you get that kind of situation, the fires can be large.”
Alumbaugh said weather data trends over the past decade for the Upper Peninsula show fire risk continuing into the fall.
“We’ve noticed it can stay warm and dry all the way into mid-October and even into early November sometimes. Especially when the fuels die off and the leaves and things start to collect, that can be a risk,” he said.
Meanwhile, the effects of last year’s destruction linger, as callers learn when they dial the Rainbow Lodge near Newberry.
“Hello. Rainbow Lodge, Two Hearted Canoe Trips and the Robinsons’ home was completely destroyed by the Duck Lake wildfire May 24, 2012,” the recorded message says.
Co-owners Kathy and Richard Robinson have moved to a trailer as they work to assess the damage to their property and decide whether it is possible to rebuild.
“I had a chance to canoe down the river last week, and you can tell as soon as you get into the burned area,” Richard Robinson said. “Yeah, there’s some green on the banks and the ferns and some of the grasses have started to come back, but a quarter mile around it’s just gone. Stuff you would normally never see.”