Remnant snow plies from winter past, snow showers and 40-degree high temperatures do not lead one to worry about wildfires, but 60-degree days are on their way.
And wildfires will soon follow.
Wildfire Prevention Week in Michigan is this week, April 21-27, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is stressing the importance of preventing wildfires when consistent spring-like weather finally arrives.
Wildfire Prevention Week is observed annually during the third full week of April in order to focus attention on the increased wildfire risk that typically occurs during this period.
"One out of three wildfires in Michigan is caused by someone burning debris who didn't take the proper precautions," said Bill O'Neill, chief of the DNR's Forest Resources Division.
"Even though many parts of the state are still snow-covered, there are areas in the southern Lower Peninsula where people are getting outdoors and starting to clean up their yards," O'Neill said.
"With late April and early May being the most prevalent time for large wildfires, we're urging folks to get their burn permit and be prepared in case their fire escapes. A little prevention can go a long way when it comes to wildfires," he said.
O'Neill, who also serves as state forester, added that careless debris burning is the source of most wildfires across Michigan, which makes it all the more important to take the time to plan any burning activity before lighting a match.
Ada Takacs, DNR fire prevention specialist, reminds residents that brush and debris burning in Michigan requires a burn permit.
In the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, residents can obtain a free permit online at www.michigan.gov/burnpermit. Those without Internet access can call 866-922-2876, toll-free, to obtain a permit.
Spring activities often include outdoor cooking and campfires as well as yard cleanup. Without proper precaution these fires can escape and cause a wildfire.
In Wisconsin burning permits are free and are available from local Emergency Fire Wardens, over the phone 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876).
With a permit in hand it is still necessary to call the toll-free 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) or visit the Wisconsin DNR website and enter the keyword "fire" each day you intend to burn to learn of any restrictions on open burning in place for your location on that day.
The Wisconsin DNR webpage and the phone messages are updated daily at 11 a.m.
The following tips can help prevent a fire from escaping:
- Clear away flammable material surrounding the fire so it won't creep into dry vegetation.
- Keep campfires small, and do not leave before they are fully extinguished.
- Be sure and douse fires with plenty of water, stir, and add more water until everything is wet.
- Do not cover a campfire with soil; it may simply smolder before coming back to life.
- Embers can re-ignite. Make sure they are out completely.
- Consider composting or mulching yard debris rather than burning it.
"A little bit of pre-planning goes a long way," Takacs said. "We can prevent a majority of Michigan wildfires by following these simple tips."
Out of the nearly 500 fires the DNR responded to in 2012, two-thirds of them were caused by people's negligence.