While many of us celebrated a warmer than usual spring, it also resulted in dryer than normal ground conditions and as a result, earlier than usual threats from wildfires.
For over a week now crews from across the United States have been battling the Duck Lake fire north of Newberry in the Upper Peninsula. Like the Sleeper Lake fire of 2007 that consumed 18,000 acres of beautiful U.P. forest, the Duck Lake fire, started by a lightning strike, to date has burnt nearly 22,000 acres.
Michigan is not the only place where firefighting crews work right now. In New Mexico volunteers this week were fighting a fire in the Gila National Forest, which quickly became the largest in that state's history.
As a result of the Duck Lake fire and the weather conditions this month, all of Northeast Michigan is under an emergency outdoor burning ban. No resident in our reading area can burn outside until June 21, at the earliest. Depending on conditions closer to that date, the ban may be extended further into the summer.
The ban means no resident can burn refuse, brush or debris outside, or in a burn barrel. No outside campfires are permitted, except those in permanently established metal or masonry fire rings. And, no smoking of any kind is allowed now in forest lands.
The cost of a fire is staggering. A total of 237 people have been involved in the Duck Lake fire suppression efforts. Everything from planes, helicopters, bulldozers, and tanker trucks have aided ground crews battling the blaze, which has leveled 115 structures in its path.
We urge residents to obey the ban on burning, including lighting off any fireworks in the weeks ahead in dry grassy areas.
The threat of fire in our region is real, and all one has to do is look back over history to see how in the past, fires have leveled whole communities. We all need to use common sense so that a Duck Lake fire doesn't roar up in our own backyard.