Michigan 2021 Wildland Fire Report


By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) “Michigan 2021 Wildland Fire Report” offers a glimpse into the state’s efforts to preserve our natural environment.

In 2021, wildland fires threatened 574 Michigan homes, businesses, and structures. Just 20 were lost—all outbuildings.

“We place a priority on saving homes whenever possible,” said MDNR state fire supervisor Dan Laux in a release. “Our firefighters are proud to defend their neighbors and communities from harm.”

MDNR maintains a staff of highly trained firefighting professionals. They work to prevent and suppress wildfires on millions of acres of public and private lands throughout Michigan.

According to the report, with the help of many other local fire departments and other agencies, the MDNR crews battled 274 fires that burned 2,379 acres of land in 2021. That number is down from the average of 350 annual wildfires. Eighty percent of 2021’s fires originated on private property.

Michigan’s 2021 fire season started early. The MDNR’s first fire response was in February, and the last was in October. An early and warm spring created favorable conditions. Most wildland fires occurred in March, April, and May. Fires appeared everywhere all at once in the state rather than the usual south-to-north progress that usually follows the retreat of wintery conditions.

As to the leading cause of wildland fires, the report states, “Most 2021 fires were ignited on weekends and were caused by people. The most common cause, consistent with previous years, was burning of yard waste. This led to 34% of fires, including those started by brush burning or fires that escaped burn barrels.”

“It’s disappointing that debris burning, a preventable fire cause, continues to top the list every year,” said DNR fire prevention specialist Paul Rogers. “Safe burning saves lives. Don’t burn on a windy day, stay near your fire and always have a water source nearby.”

MDNR encourages people to find alternatives to burning, such as brush and leaf disposal such as chipping or composting.

MDNR executed 57 prescribed burns on 5,100 acres in 2021. These controlled burns kill invasive plants, stimulate native plant growth, and support wildlife by improving and renewing grassland and young forest habitat.

Michigan’s wildfires are small when compared to other areas. Wildfires in the western U.S. burned more than 7.6 million acres in 2021, including California’s 2.6 million-acre Dixie Fire. Canada had similar numbers, with more than 6,200 fires burning over 10 million acres. These fires caused mass evacuations and destroyed homes and businesses. MDNR sent 105 firefighters and tech support staff to help with these catastrophic blazes.

The DNR’s aviation program conducted missions in 2021, totaling 1,136 flight hours for activities including fire detection flights, bald eagle surveys, and wildlife monitoring.

MDNR reports that 2022 is shaping up as a similar year, with more than 140 fires already reported.

Learn about wildland firefighting and fire safety at Michigan.gov/FireManagement.

Images courtesy of MDNR

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