Wildfire risk ‘abnormally high’

July 15, 2018

Fire officials encourage extra caution

A confluence of high temperatures, strong winds and low precipitation have increased the risk for wildfires in the Midwest, and Mason County is among Michigan’s high-risk areas.

The National Weather Service reported Thursday that parts of western, central and northern Michigan are at an “abnormally high” wildfire risk, with draught conditions higher than they’ve been all year.

Steve Vandervest, fire chief for the Mason County Rural Fire Authority, said the risk is not to be taken lightly.

“Everything’s hot. Our heat index has been so high and we haven’t had significant rainfall,” Vandervest said. “It’s getting pretty bad. It’s pretty dry out there right now, and we have a lot of campers this time of year, too. It could be a bad situation.”

Vandervest is urging extra caution for campers and area residents who have campfires and cookouts in their backyards.

Caution is particularly important heading into the weekend, with temperatures expected to increase and no significant precipitation in the forecast.

“People are going to have to be careful with their campfires, this weekend especially,” he said. “It doesn’t take much for the wind to whip up a campfire and turn it into something serious. There’s a lot of people who just sit around in their back yards and have a campfire, and they’re going to have to pay extra attention to what they’re doing this weekend.”

Brandon Hoving, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Grand Rapids office, attributed the elevated risk to several different factors, including higher temperatures hitting earlier in the summer than expected and a lack of rainfall.

“Portions of western, central and northern Michigan are abnormally dry for this time of year and these areas have received less than normal rainfall,” Hoving said. “So the vegetation is getting a little dry and there have been reports here and there of wildfires throughout the state.”

The threat will continue until the area experiences significant rainfall to offset the dry conditions.

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