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DNR issues Memorial Day weekend warning amid 'high' fire danger

Most wildfires are caused by people, the DNR says, with the burning of yard waste the top offender in Michigan
Recent brush fire near the Sault as seen from overhead

With fire danger elevated across the state, local residents were being reminded to keep fire safety in mind whether their weekend plans included heading out of town, doing yard work or hitting the trails.

Whether you're traveling or not, conditions are dry in much of the state, said Don Klingler, resource protection manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Be careful with fire, off-road vehicles and outdoor equipment and take precautions to keep yourself and others safe, Klinger said.

Fire danger was deemed "high" or "very high" statewide as of Thursday, with pockets of extreme risk across the northern Lower Peninsula, the MDNR said in a news release.

Even if the landscape looks green, vegetation still can be dry, said Keith Murphy, a DNR fire management specialist based in the Upper Peninsula.

“Due to the low relative humidity, needle moisture in pines and lack of good rainfall, certain areas of the Upper Peninsula can definitely burn,” he said.

Several of Michigan’s largest wildfires in the past have started during the last two weeks in May.

Since the beginning of fire season in March, DNR wildland firefighters have fought more than 124 fires covering nearly 700 acres. 

Unfortunately, most wildfires are caused by people, the DNR said, and in Michigan, the burning of yard waste is the top offender.

“People get out there and don’t realize how fast a fire can take off, especially if there is any breeze that can carry an ember,” Klingler said.

If a backyard fire gets away from you, call 911 immediately.

Check before you start your fire to make sure weather conditions allow for safe burning. (In southern Lower Peninsula communities, consult local fire authorities.)

The MDNR offered these tips to keep outdoor activities fire safe:

  • Keep a hose or other water source nearby when burning.
  • Prevent sparks. Keep trailer chains from dragging when you’re on the road; don’t park hot equipment on dry grass.
  • Contain your campfire or bonfire in a pit or ring and make sure you put it out thoroughly before leaving for the night. Douse the fire with water, stir the ashes and douse again.
  • Never leave any fire, including hot coals, unattended.
  • Never shoot fireworks into the woods, dry grass or shrubs.
  • It’s illegal to burn plastic, hazardous materials, foam or other household trash. This can release dangerous chemicals into the air, causing harm to you or others. Dispose of these materials properly.
  • You can use a burn barrel with a screen on top to burn paper, leaves and natural materials.

More fire safety information is available at