Long winter puts West Michigan at greater risk for fire

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The fire danger is high around West Michigan -- in part -- because of our long winter. Much of the grass and brush around the area is dead and dried out after thawing. Combined with breezy conditions and low humidity, the conditions were right over the weekend for grass fires. WZZM 13 went out to two fires this weekend in Kent County. Firefighters say can start unexpectedly and spread fast, and that many people aren't taking the threat seriously enough.

Phil Dougherty, the Alto Township Fire Chief says, "The wind is drying out that grass on top and then when there is a fire it moves that fire so quickly from the wind.... Somebody says we've been burning this burn barrel for twenty years and it's never been a problem we've heard that time and time again."

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reports more than 60 acres have burned in about a dozen wildfires this year. Right now... Michigan is in the busiest fire season.

Unlike out west, our state has the most wildfires in the spring before new grass grows. Dead leaves and grass ignite easily and days with low humidity and wind create perfect conditions for a fire to spread fast.

The majority of wildfires are caused by people burning things like leaves or trash. And every year... Michigan fire departments respond to around 12-thousand wildfires. The state requires a burning permit any time the ground is not covered in snow. Camp fires are exempt... but DNR officials say you still have to keep control of the fire. Letting a fire get out of hand is a misdemeanor... punishable by a fine and possibly even 90 days in jail.


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