Be careful with fire this holiday weekend.

Summer heat and sporadic rainfall in the past month have pushed parts of Michigan into conditions allowing wildfires to ignite and burn, even though wildfire danger is not expected to be at peak levels in most locations during the Fourth of July holiday, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“A prime example of how a large fire can ignite despite perceptions adequate moisture had been falling, happened early in June when the Howes Lake fire occurred in Crawford County and burned over 800 acres when most of Michigan had been receiving regular rainfall,” said Paul Kollmeyer, DNR wildfire prevention specialist. “Storms had been missing the area for weeks and when a lightning storm did come through, there was a lack of moisture associated with the front, allowing lightning to ignite Michigan’s largest wildfire so far this season.”

According to DNR records, debris burning and campfires are responsible for most of the 119 wildfires the DNR has responded to this year, burning a total of 1,391 acres.

“Anytime the weather is hot and dry during the Fourth of July holiday, there is a potential for wildfires,” said Lynne Boyd, chief of the DNR Forest Management Division. “With so many visitors enjoying the woodlands and campgrounds during this time, the chances for wildfire greatly increase.”

Boyd urged Michigan citizens and visitors to be extremely careful with outdoor fires and fireworks. She offered the following suggestions:

  • Keep campfires small, and do not leave them unattended at any time;
  • Be sure all fires and barbeques are completely extinguished – use plenty of water, stir and add more water until everything is wet and no steam is produced;
  • Turn over unburned pieces of wood left in a fire pit and wet the underside;
  • Soak unburned pieces of charcoal from a barbeque in a bucket of water before disposing of them; and
  • Do not simply cover a campfire with soil – this is an insufficient way to put the fire out and disguises the heat smoldering beneath, which may lead to burns if someone were to accidentally step on the coals.

Boyd also reminds everyone that fireworks will easily start fires in grassy or wooded areas, and that they should only be released in parking lots, driveways or other areas cleared of vegetation.

“Fireworks that explode or fly into the air are illegal in Michigan and are the cause of many fires each year,” Boyd said. “We ask Michigan residents and visitors to please use extra care with their holiday celebrations this year and help prevent wildfires.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.