Caution urged when burning

The Frankfort Fire Department responded to a grass fire between M-115 and Airport Road last month, the result of the wind blowing a open burning pile into a field. (Colin Merry/Pioneer News Network)

MANISTEE COUNTY — Many Manistee County residents are cleaning up their yards now that the snow is beginning to melt, but caution is advised if they plan to burn yard debris.

Rebecca Hubers, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer, said residents should first check to see if conditions are right for burning. The DNR has a website with a map of Michigan showing where burning is and isn’t permitted. The website,, is updated daily based on weather conditions in each of Michigan’s 83 counties, as well as other factors.

“There aren’t physical permits anymore,” Hubers said. “Modern technology has changed that. You can go to the website and check on the county you want to burn in. It will tell you it is, or isn’t, permitted that day.”

Hubers said residents wishing to burn lawn debris should contact local government, as well. Cities, village and townships may have restrictions on burning not noted by the DNR.”

Some counties, mostly downstate, have restrictions that require people to call in. Manistee County residents also can call (866) 922-2876 to see if burning is permitted in their county.

However, checking online to see if burning is allowed is not the only thing for which residents are responsible.

“There are restrictions that you can only burn natural materials,” Hubers said. “You also have to take precautions to make sure it doesn’t escape when you are open burning (not using an kind of enclosure).”

Hubers said burn piles should not be left unattended, and that there should be a way to put it out if it starts to get out of control. A hose, buckets of water and a rake can all help keep a fire contained.

An example of an out-of control fire happened on March 25 in Benzie County, when a Crystal Lake Township resident was burning some tree branches on a property between M-115 and Airport Road.

According to Hubers, the resident left the fire unattended, and came back to find it created a grass fire over several acres. The fire burned through an open field of dry grass toward several houses on Airport Road. A propane tank was in the path of the fire, as well.

The Benzie County Sheriff’s Office received word of the rapidly spreading grass fire around 2:30 p.m.

“It was just a little bonfire that was left unattended and the winds blew the fire into the field,” said Arron Garrett, chief of the Frankfort Fire Department. “It took about 20 minutes to contain the fire, and another 20 to go through and make sure we got all the hot spots. Luckily, it didn’t get to the propane tank, or the houses.”

Hubers said the Crystal Lake Township resident was fined for failing to stop the spread of the fire to the adjacent property.

She also said people should check on fires periodically once they are out, even checking the next day.

“Sometimes, a fire can re-ignite several days later,” she said. “It can look like it is out, but all it takes is one little ember and the wind to pick up. It is surprising how many times a fire that was ‘out’ starts back up again.”


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