It seems that spring has sprung early in the U.P. Although the possibility of one last snowstorm is always looming this time of year, bare ground and unseasonably warm temperatures has caused a wave of spring fever.
Spring has come, but so have the hazards of spring. Grass fires have been popping up all over Delta County over the past two weeks, and current conditions are only making the matter worse.
Everything is dry - really dry. By U.P. standards, the area didn't receive that much snow this year. In fact, the snowfall was so meager that a few weeks of warm weather managed to banish the area's winter snow cover. Even precipitation in the form of rain as been non-existent.
All this equals very dry conditions. These conditions are the stuff damaging wildfires are made of. This is certainly not the time to burn spring debris or to be careless with fire.
Just ask area firefighters. They have spent the past two weeks putting out grass fires all over the county. In fact, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment is not issuing any permits for open burning of debris in Schoolcraft and Delta counties. The Garden and Nahma areas have been especially hard hit. Luckily, none of these fires has caused major damage and all have been contained relatively quickly.
The potential exists, however, for a wildfire to become dangerously out of control. It has happened before. Unfortunately, it will probably happen again. Some residents will remember the Stockyard Fire in Stonington in the late 1980s, and damage it caused. Its impact is still visible to this day when driving through the area. It started as a small fire and grew to enormous proportions during very dry conditions.
Let's hope Mother Nature provides the area with a bit of moisture to "green" things up and lower the fire risk. Until then, caution should be the name of the game.