100+ acre wildfire near Grayling shows Michigan's fire danger is high, DNR says

Several planes, including this U.S. Forest Service Air Boss, were used to dump water on the...
Several planes, including this U.S. Forest Service Air Boss, were used to dump water on the approximately 105-acre fire that broke out in a privately-owned jack pine forest near Grayling on Thursday. (source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources) (WJRT)
Published: May. 22, 2020 at 12:01 PM EDT
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(5/22/2020) - Fire crews in the air and on the ground spared 70 homes threatened by a more than 100-acre wildfire near Grayling on Thursday.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the wildfire in a jack pine forest along M-72 shows how dangerous fire conditions remain statewide this spring.

Firefighters evacuated about 70 homes in the area of M-72 between Stephan Bridge Road and South Horseshoe Trail in Crawford County after 5 p.m. The fire burned privately-owned jack pine stands in the area.

DNR crews say the fire burned a swath about a mile long and nearly a quarter mile wide. They spent about three and a half hours battling the fire before it was contained.

The U.S. Forest Service dispatched five airplanes and two helicopters to assist while the DNR also had a reconnaissance plane overhead monitoring the fire spread.

The DNR also sent 20 ground firefighters to assist four local fire departments.

No homes were lost, but flames destroyed two outbuildings. Residents returned home around 9 p.m.

Investigators weren't sure what caused the fire on Friday. Fire crews planned to remain in the area for much of Friday dousing hot spots and any flare-ups.

The DNR says dry conditions, sunny skies and warmer temperatures helped fuel the fire despite recent rain in the northern Lower Peninsula. Jack pines also release their seeds under high heat, which also contributed to the rapid spread.

DNR officials say the fire risk will remain elevated through in Northern Michigan through Memorial Day weekend. Everyone is asked to be very careful with any outdoor burning and get a burning permit ahead of time.