Justine Lofton M LIVE
Wildfire-fighting planes in position amid high fire risk across Michigan 
April 14, 2023
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  • The U.S. Forest Service responded to red flag fire risk conditions this week by positioning its wildfire-fighting airplanes at an airport ready for takeoff. 

    The aerial firefighting resources of the Huron-Manistee National Forests were relocated to the Wexford County Airport in Cadillac this week due to the high fire risk across Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula. 

    The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning across the northern L.P. through 9 p.m. Friday, April 14. The warning means that wind, low humidity and warm temperatures are creating conditions in which “any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly,” NWS said. 

    Most of the USFS annual wildfire response is attributed to wildfires caused by debris burning., said Forest Fire Management Officer Kevin Reese. 

    Earlier this week, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued a burn ban across the L.P. due to the high fire risk. That remains in effect Friday. Some Upper Peninsula counties have been added to the ban. 

    Since the first day of spring, Huron-Manistee National Forests personnel have responded to 30 fires the covered 183 acres as of Wednesday, April 12, Reese said. Seven of those fires were on Tuesday and account for 120 acres of that. 

    On Tuesday, the HMNFs sent resources to the Three Mile Fire in Sauble Township Lake County. About 100 acres burned in that fire alone. On Wednesday, a wildfire at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Leelanau County grew to 14 acres before it was contained. 

    The USDA Forest Service had positioned four SEATs and a Type 3 Helicopter at the aerial firefighting base in Gaylord for wildfire aerial suppression support for the Great Lakes region. The helicopter was flown to Cadillac on Wednesday to provide faster response to the west side of the Lower Peninsula. 

    “Be careful with any activities that could potentially lead to a wildfire,” Travis Owens, USFS public information officer, said in a statement. 

    That includes recreation and debris burning, which is prohibited under the DNR’s current burn ban. 

    “Now would be a good time to mitigate the spread of a fire to your property,” Owens added. “Cut your brush smaller and stack it in small piles, maybe even consider chipping instead of burning. Clean your gutters and the valleys and ridges of your roof to prevent a stray ember from a burn pile or wildfire from landing in an area with ignitable material and starting a house fire.” 

    Additionally, wood piles should be covered and more than 30 feet away from any structure. 

    Here are a few tips to ensure recreation equipment won’t spark a fire: 

    Warming and cooking fires are permitted during burn bans. Here are some tips to ensure they are safe: 

    The USFS also asks the public to refrain from visiting wildfire ground or flying drones in and around the operational area.