10 Years Later: Remembering the Duck Lake Fire

It’s been 10 years since the Duck Lake Fire.

The fire happened May 24, 2012 north of Newberry after lightning struck, according to the DNR. Over the course of days, this fire grew to be over 21,000 acres. Ranking it as the third-largest wildfire in modern Michigan history, after the 25,000-acre Mack Lake Fire near Grayling in 1980 and the 72,000-acre Walsh Ditch Fire at the Seney refuge in 1976.

Dan Laux, Fire Section Leader for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division says “the Duck Lake Fire’s speed, heat and aggression were unusual in Michigan.”

“Duck Lake burned pretty aggressively throughout the night, and through the day it pushed a long way, and then it pushed again to the east when the wind switched,” Laux said.

The fire destroyed a total of 136 structures, which includes 49 homes and cabins and the Rainbow Lodge’s motel and store, according to the DNR.

Three hundred DNR personnel worked on the fire. The DNR says that 42.6 miles of fire line was built to contain the fire and people who were evacuated from the area could not return until June 7, which was nearly two weeks after the start of the fire.

Almost 15,700 acres of state forest land was burned, Keith Magnuson, Manager of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Management Unit in Newberry, said. Plans for reforesting the burned area was made.

“We had to make plans as to what we should plant and what we were going to let the forest regenerate naturally,” Magnuson said.

The DNR planted a million trees in 2013 and a million more in 2014. Half a million a year was planted in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the DNR says.

“In terms of cultivation and forestation, it was kind of a monumental task for six years after the fire,” Magnusson said.

Now, the jack pine grown from seeds released by the fire are almost 10 feet high, according to the DNR.