Authorities encourage safe burning practices for Mecosta County residents during dry season

FIRE: Officials warns residents the beginning of spring poses the greatest risk for wildfires with dry vegetation and high winds. (Pioneer photo/Dan Meloy)

FIRE: Officials warns residents the beginning of spring poses the greatest risk for wildfires with dry vegetation and high winds. (Pioneer photo/Dan Meloy)

MECOSTA COUNTY — Starting a small fire to burn some leaves or roast a hot dog is a great spring activity, but the Department of Natural Resources warns people an unattended fire can turn a wonderful spring day into a homeowner’s worst nightmare.

Fire officials and emergency management personnel label the beginning of spring as the “dry season,” when conditions make grass and timber most susceptible to ground fires.

Mecosta County Emergency Management Coordinator Scott Schroeder said conditions this time of year are the reason why people need to be watchful of fires and make sure they are under control.

“Before everything greens up, the ground is without moisture and it gets really dry,” Schroeder said. “Big clues for people are when we go through a dry spell with low humidity and any kind of wind, that’s when you need to be on the lookout for ground fires.”

Dan Laux, DNR fire prevention specialist, warns dead grass becomes flammable as it dries out.

“People don’t realize there can be wildfire danger even when nights are cool and snow piles linger in the shade,” Laux said. “The hazard begins when homeowners start spring cleanup chores by burning yard waste.”

People should visit michigan.gov/burnpermit to see if open burning is allowed in their county, according to the DNR. If the county is colored green on the map, burning is permitted provided local ordinances are followed. If the county is colored brown, burning is not allowed.

The DNR has these tips for people who are burning with a permit:

  • Choose a day that is cool and damp with little wind
  • Burn in small mounds placed in areas that are clear of vegetation
  • Keep water close by
  • Supervise fires at all times
  • Always extinguish flames, coals and embers properly. Remember, embers can stay hot for days.

In addition to state regulations, Big Rapids residents must adhere to city ordinances regarding burning.

Fires within city limits can be started for cooking purposes and burning untreated paper products, according to Big Rapids Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Steve Schroeder.

“We require people to burn with an approved barrel with a screen that covers the top to prevent ember spread,” Steve Schroeder said. “Burning has to be done 25 feet from any structure, and people can only burn untreated paper products, no sticks or leaves.”

Steve Schroeder said DPS checks with the DNR on burning conditions in Mecosta County before making its own decision on whether or not to issue burn permits.

“If there are any questions on what you can and cannot burn, I urge people to call and ask, ‘What are the rules and regulations?'” Steve Schroeder said. “Just pay attention to conditions and make sure you have the means to prevent any spread of fire. Keep your smoke minimal to prevent any nuisance.”

If a ground fire does get out hand, Scott Schroeder urges people not to hesitate calling the fire department, saying firefighters would rather respond right away to a small fire than having someone try to put out the fire before it spreads. He also warns people ground fires can start days after a person chooses to burn.

“Look at what the weather will be two or three days after the day you decide to burn,” Scott Schroeder said. “You can have some pretty hot coals that could start a problem. One day it may become dry and the wind will pick up, and that’s when you see ground fires.

“The main thing we stress is use common sense. Don’t burn more than what you can handle, and don’t be afraid to call the fire department when things are becoming a problem. Just pay attention to what you are doing and always have a plan for putting the fire out.”

 

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