GRAYLING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Though the Wilderness Trail Fire near Grayling, Michigan burned through the weekend, crews had a major breakthrough late Tuesday as they fully contained the fire according to the DNR.
The fire, estimated at 2,418 acres in size, reached full containment on Tuesday, and local roads were reopened for use, though travelers are being asked to avoid the area in Crawford County’s Grayling Township so fire crews can complete their work.
“We know it is interesting to see and that people are curious, but we want to make sure we have the room to get our work done safely,” said Mike Janisse, commander of the DNR Incident Management Team that has been assisting with the fire. “Driving on the dry roads creates a great deal of dust, which makes for poor visibility.” Roads also are narrow and there is little room for passing.
Janisse served as the primary commander of the DNR Incident Management Team assisting with the fire and helped coordinate the multi agency approach to battling the fire, beginning with the coordination of evacuation with law enforcement.
According to him, there were multiple structures near the fire that were residential or at least seasonal, but the team needed to make sure no one was in harm’s way.
One of the more challenging aspects of the fire in Grayling, was gaining vehicular and crew access to fight close to the fire.
“Access was extremely difficult,” he said, “It was in an area where sandy two tracks, units got stuck going in, I almost got stuck in my pickup trying to evacuate folks. We had to tow engines up hills to get to the origin, so there was a delay there.”
Part of the issue with the fire had to do with just how dry, which is in large part to the extreme drought in the state, which is unprecedented this time of year, he said.
“The fuels that are out there are explosive in nature,” Janiesse said, “They can have any spark at anytime and have 100% of the time of that spark causing a fire until we get significant rain.”
According to the DNR, the fire began at roughly 1 pm on Saturday near Staley Lake, eventually causing the evacuation of about 300 people until that evening.
Several agencies assisted in the fire including air support from water bearing planes and helicopters from the USDA Forest Service and Michigan State Police.
“Fire danger is still Extreme and Very High throughout Michigan,” the DNR said in a tweet, “Burn permits are not being issued and while campfires are still permitted, you may want to rethink it.”
Janisse recommended cautions for campfires, and reiterated the need to make sure that they are out cold after use by using a combination of water, and shovel or rake to churn the coals until they are completely out.
DNR firefighters statewide have fought more than two dozen fires in the past week.