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Massive Iosco County wildfire nearly contained a week after it started

U.S. Forest Service planning to review why a prescribed burn got out of control
A firefighter snapped this photo of the dense smoke in the midst of a five thousand acre...
A firefighter snapped this photo of the dense smoke in the midst of a five thousand acre wildfire in remote Iosco County.(Uriah Biesck, Grant Twp. Fire Department)
Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 11:20 AM EDT
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IOSCO COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - The massive wildfire that scorched thousands of acres in a remote area of western Iosco County is nearly contained a week after it started.

The U.S. Forest Service ignited the fire as a prescribed burn on April 23 with plans to burn just over 1,000 acres in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. However, the flames jumped roadways and containment lines, eventually burning 5,781 acres.

The Forest Service says the Brittle Fire was 98% contained Friday morning and crews hoped to reach full containment later in the day. The fire is not spreading much, but pockets of flames remain in the burned area.

No injuries were reported from the fire, no structures were lost and very little privately owned land was affected. Two neighborhoods in Iosco County were evacuated while the fire burned out of control a week ago, but residents were allowed back home after fewer than 12 hours.

Once the fire is completely contained extinguished, the Forest Service plans to conduct a thorough review of what caused the controlled burn to go out of control. The agency’s policies require the review and officials plan to share the results when it is complete.

The Forest Service planned the prescribed burn in a forest of red pine, jack pine and oak trees to establish a fire break and rehabilitate wildlife habitat. Officials say an unforecasted wind event blew embers outside the fire line into areas rich with unburned fuel.

The prescribed burn crew noticed a spot fire starting and tried to extinguish it, but they were not successful. Nearly 4,700 acres outside the planned burn area -- still mostly on federal land -- was consumed in the fire.

The Forest Service says previous prescribed burns conducted over a span of four weeks before the Brittle Fire created fire breaks, which helped prevent the wildfire from spreading into occupied areas and consuming any structures.

Regional Forest Service managers say the incident will provide a learning opportunity for future crews, so they are planning a full investigation and analysis to determine what happened.

“The primary objective of the analysis is to determine factors which led to the prescribed fire escape and any measures which could be taken to prevent a recurrence on a future fire,” said Huron-Manistee National Forests Supervisor Leslie Auriemmo. “A secondary objective is to document the event with lessons learned in a way that can facilitate shared learning among all involved in wildland fire management.”

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