As crews finish up containing the Wilderness Trail Wildfire in Crawford County, Grayling officials are reacting to the impact this fire had on the community and fire crews.
The wildfire started from a fire at a home in Grayling around 1 p.m. on Saturday. It’s gone on to burn around 2,400 acres of land.
Now on day three, the DNR says crews have it more than 90% contained and hope to finish and reopen all the roads, as well as Staley and Kneff Lakes, by the end of the day Monday. In the meantime, they’re asking people to hold off burning or at least be extremely cautious if they do.
“Everyone noticed we got a little rain in this area. It was not significant… We’re still [in] extreme fire conditions,” said Laurie Abel, Michigan DNR Public Information Officer.
The supervisor for Grayling Township says he’s not happy and neither are any of the residents he’s spoken with either. He says while he’s glad nobody was hurt, fires like this close roads, force people out of the area, take a lot of manpower to put out, and have a big impact on the environment.
“The wildlife depends on that area. A lot of that is Kirtland Warbler area. It’s burnt right to the ground, so it’s affected all the wildlife and critters out there and Mother Nature in general,” said Lacey Stephan, Grayling Township Supervisor.
Residents and businesses throughout Grayling went without power for almost a day. Some businesses on 4 Mile Road had to be evacuated altogether. Despite all that, Stephan says he’s been blown away by how the businesses and people in the community came together.
“One of our volunteer fireman had an anniversary set aside. Couldn’t make it. The wife and kids came out to the field, they brought pizza, they sat there and celebrated outside the perimeter of the fire and then he went right back at it. He’s still there today fighting that fire,” said Stephan.
Grayling’s fire chief says along with the DNR, over 45 departments from as far away as Wisconsin responded, with well over 100 firefighters on-scene. Still, he says crews have been putting in 14 hour shifts.
“If they were able to put a timeline [on] how fast this fire moved, and I’m sure down the road we will, you’re going to find this fire was a very quick moving, very fast fire. And it grew big within 20 minutes, 15 minutes. It was a very, very big fire. So just pay attention, and right now if they have red flags or ‘don’t burn’ – just don’t burn,” said Chief Rodney Vandecastpele, Grayling Fire Department.
Vandecastpele says while it’s still legal to have a bonfire in the state, he says everyone should consider holding off until we get significant rain.