Wildfires ravage wilderness in eastern part of Upper Peninsula
Newberry, Mich. — Three wildfires tore through parts of the eastern Upper Peninsula late last month, all reportedly started by lightening.
The Pike Lake Fire scorched 22 acres before being overtaken by the larger Duck Lake Fire. The Seney/Pine Creek North Wildfire charred some 3,200 acres of wilderness in the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, and the Duck Lake Wildfire torched over 30 miles of wilderness during the course of a week. The Seney wildfire was contained as of May 30. The Duck Lake Fire, which had consumed approximately 21,450 acres in Luce County, was only 55 percent contained as of May 30.
“We’re making headway on containment. We’re holding it pretty well,” DNR public information officer Dean Wilson told Michigan Outdoor News in a phone interview May 30. “We’ve got two 20-man crews putting (fire) lines in where we can’t get equipment in, and where we can get equipment in, we are drawing lines.”
Wilson said part of the problem with containment is that firefighters are essentially fighting two types of fires.
“It’s an upland jack pine fire to the north, and we have that pretty secured at the east and west flanks,” Wilson said. “At the south end there is a lot of swamp and marsh and lowland that we can’t get our equipment into. Thank goodness for our air crew.”
According to the DNR, the south end of the fire is 14 miles north of Newberry and 7 miles west of Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which was closed early in the fire, but reopened May 30. The fire is long and narrow, and stretches 11 miles north to Lake Superior. There are 40 miles of fire line, including six miles of Lake Superior shoreline, 13 miles of completed line (includes County Road 500), and 21 miles is uncontained fire line.
On May 25, Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of disaster in Luce and Schoolcraft counties, which allowed officials to evacuate residents, institute a burning ban in 49 counties in northern Michigan, and establish a fireworks ban in Luce and Schoolcraft counties.
At press time, 97 structures had perished in the fires, including the Rainbow Lodge at the mouth of the Two Hearted River, and the cottages at the Pike Lake Lodge. In all, the fire torched 34 homes/cabins, 22 garages, 22 sheds/outbuildings, 17 campers, one store, and one motel.
“We’re working real hard to get the southern portion contained,” Wilson said.
A total of 237 personnel – including 56 overhead personnel – are fighting the fire. Volunteer fire departments from Bay Mills, Germfask Township, Hendricks Township, Burt Township, Whitefish Township, Superior Township, village of Newberry, and Kinross Township have been involved. Also assisting in battling the blaze are the Michigan DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota and Wisconsin DNRs, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan State Police, Luce County Sheriff’s Department, Red Cross, Michigan State Police, Luce County Emergency Management, Michigan National Guard, Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department, American Red Cross, and Salvation Army.
The DNR is encouraging residents across the state to avoid open burning and use of any fireworks during this extremely high fire-danger season to minimize the possibility of more wildfires.
For wildfire prevention tips and for information on what is and is not permissible under the outdoor burning ban, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.