WEXFORD COUNTY, MI – A wildfire that engulfed hundreds of acres of state forest land continues to burn in northern Michigan for the third day as firefighters work to contain it.
As of Thursday afternoon, May 27, the Colfax fire in County Wexford was 78% under control and burned about 378 acres – a reduction from the previous estimate of 425 acres, according to the Department of Natural Resources. Michigan.
RELATED: Wildfire burns 425 acres in northern Michigan as firefighters continue the fight
MNR estimates that fire suppression and containment efforts, which began Tuesday from the ground and the air, saved 86 residences and 65 outbuildings from the blaze – no structures were reported damaged or lost. Losses reported from the fire include a conventional trailer, utility trailer, backhoe loader tools and a snow blower.
The fire was first reported on Tuesday around 4:30 p.m. It ignited in a private Scots pine plantation and spread to nearby state forest lands, burning aspens, red pines and spruce trees. The cause remains under investigation.
Today, day three of the fire, crews are focused on establishing containment lines, monitoring and patrolling the fire area, cleaning up and cutting down dangerous trees. Monitoring will continue over the next few days. Currently, 25 MNR firefighters and an MNR incident management team are assigned to the fire.
Rain that is expected to fall in the area this afternoon, night and Friday would help with fire suppression efforts.
The Colfax fire is located approximately five miles northwest of Manton and 21 miles southeast of Traverse City; it is east of road 31, west of road 33, north of road 12 and mainly south of road 8. The perimeter is estimated at 6.3 miles, of which 5.9 miles are contained. Firefighters continue to fight to contain the remaining 0.4 miles of the line of fire.
While the roads are open, MNR encourages the public to avoid the fire area. Hazards include dead and standing trees that could fall on the roads and low visibility due to low-level smoke.
Residents were evacuated from their homes on Tuesday as a precautionary measure as MNR, the US Forest Service, Michigan State Police, local emergency management teams and more than a dozen emergency services fire volunteers were fighting the forest fire. The first day’s efforts included tankers that dropped 42,000 gallons of water on the blaze. A small amount of rain, about a tenth of an inch, also helped put out the blaze.
By 10 p.m. Tuesday, the fire was 60% under control. As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, it was 70% content. As the fire was under control on Wednesday, fewer resources were allocated to the scene; resources were pulled back again on Thursday as progress continued.
Although the cause of the blaze remains unknown, the fire risk increased on Tuesday due to warm temperatures, dry conditions and winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour across mid-Michigan. These factors are believed to have fueled the spread of the wildfire.
MNR issues burning permits daily to Michigan.gov/BurnPermit, which indicates whether or not burning is permitted in counties and townships. Anyone wishing to burn debris should also check local weather conditions and fire danger levels beforehand.
Other safety tips include burning debris in barrels with metal screens and cleaning up vegetation around the burn area. Always have a source of water nearby when burning and never leave a fire unattended. Completely extinguish fires after burning.
There is no burning permit for Wexford County today, as well as several other counties in central and northern Michigan.
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