So far in 2014, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has responded to 158 wildfires that have burned more than 525 acres.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, meanwhile, reports 540 wildfires statewide, burning 2,722 acres.
Even though recent rains have reduced the danger of wildfires locally, DNR officials in both states urge residents and visitors to be cautious when lighting, enjoying and extinguishing their outdoor fires this Labor Day weekend.
Dan Laux, fire prevention specialist with the Michigan DNR's Forest Resources Division, explained that despite recent rain, Michigan is seeing late summer conditions where fuels such as grass and leaves are approaching the end of their growing season.
Precautions are in order throughout the late summer and fall.
"Even with wet weather, once fuels are dead they can dry out quickly and burn within an hour on a warm sunny day," he said. "Wind can aid that process and will increase the rate at which a fire spreads out of control. A few simple precautions can help keep small fires small and ensure they won't escape to cause injury or major damage."
Hear are some tips to ensure fire safety:
- Clear away all flammables before lighting a fire.
- Never leave any fire unattended, even for a moment.
- Keep all campfires and debris fires small.
- Have water available in case a fire begins to flare up. If a fire does escape, call 911 immediately before attempting to put it out.
- When done with your fire, drown it with plenty of water. Wet everything thoroughly, especially the undersides of unburned pieces. Stir the ashes to find any hot embers and wet everything again.
- Do not simply bury a fire; soil will act as an insulating blanket and mask the heat beneath the surface.
- Always make sure fires are completely out. Carelessness and improperly extinguished coals are a leading cause of escaped fires.
"We want folks to enjoy their time camping, hiking and spending the long weekend with friends and family, but we also are asking them to keep fire safety in mind while they're doing so," Laux added. "Because nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by people, increasing public awareness about fire prevention is imperative all year."