NEWBERRY - A wildfire in Luce County has forced the evacuation of nearby homes and has burned an estimated 17,000 acres as of this morning, according to fire personnel.
Officials from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said the Duck Lake Fire, located in an area north of Newberry that includes Lake Superior State Forest land, has now approached Lake Superior.
The wildfire was detected Wednesday afternoon. Containment efforts were halted after dark, then resumed Thursday morning. Strong winds and high temperatures on Thursday enabled the fire to escape and intensify to its current situation, explained officials, who say Jack Pines have been the fire's primary fuel.
An air tanker obtains water from the Big Manistique Lake in Curtis to fight a wildfire on the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. (Courtesy Photo)
The wildfire had burned approximately 10,220 acres by Thursday evening and then expanded through the night to an estimated 17,000 acres this morning due to windy conditions, said officials. Westerly winds moved the fire further east, but the fire also burned north to Lake Superior.
DNR officials say County Road 500 from M-123 to Little Lake Harbor and County Road 414 up to County Road 410 have been closed due to the fire.
No injuries have been reported, but homes and camps from the Pike Lake area east to County Road 500 and north up to Little Lake were threatened and have been evacuated.
Evacuees were sent to a shelter at the Newberry Youth Center, which has been supported by the American Red Cross.
Officials say some buildings have burned in the fire, but the number of structures lost is unknown at this time. Crews will continue to attempt to keep the fire north of M-123 and west of County Road 500, added officials.
DNR personnel said an earlier wildfire broke out in the area Monday afternoon. Suppression efforts had this fire contained at 22 acres by Monday night. Mop-up efforts to extinguish hot spots continued through Thursday until the fire crew was forced away by the advancing Duck Lake Fire.
A separate wildfire at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, located west of the Duck Lake Fire, has now burned approximately 3,000 acres as of Thursday evening, according to officials. Crews have been effective at holding the wildfire below its north containment line, said Jennifer McDonough, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson. Lightning is said to have caused the fire, which was first reported Monday.
On Thursday, crews worked on the fire's north containment line and on a portion of the fire that had jumped the Pine Creek line to the west, she said. Ground efforts were assisted by two air tankers and a helicopter.
McDonough said crews were expected to continue containing the wildfire within the refuge's boundaries today. They were also expected to improve fire lines and mop up fire edges.
The DNR will continue assessing the need for purposely burning state lands between M-28 and the north refuge boundary. If this action is necessary, it would mean the complete closure of M-28 while crews set fire along the highway to back the fire into the wind, she said. The burn would create a black area 1.5 to two miles that should stop the fire from crossing the highway if it jumps the nearby diversion ditch, McDonough said.
Due to the location of the fire, McDonough said the Marshland Wildlife Drive, Fishing Loop, Pine Ridge Nature Trail and many interior roads have been closed at the refuge. Officials are expected to reassess the closures tonight.