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What Happens After a Fire? Here’s What the DNR Thinks About the Wilderness Trail

The dry conditions are allowing the Wilderness Trail wildfire in Crawford County to continue to burn, in small spots, despite being completely contained. Until it is extinguished, the full extent of the damage to the ecosystem will not be known.

Will the DNR have to help? Or can Mother Nature handle it herself?

Mother Nature is resilient. She will be able to handle whatever is thrown her way, especially a wildfire. But when you look at the aftermath of the fire in Crawford County, it’s hard not to want to do something to help speed up the growth.


“It’ll be at least one growing season before we can see the impacts of what kind of natural regeneration we have coming back,” said Tom Barnes, unit manager of the DNR Grayling office.

Whether occurring naturally or caused by man, a wildfire can be devastating to an ecosystem.

“Wildlife is really resilient. They will disperse out to the other habitat,” said Barnes. “Then when this comes back and greens up, they will start occupying it again.”

RELATED: Kirtland Warbler, Already a Threatened Species, Impacted by Grayling Wildfire


Will that green up happen on its own or will the DNR have to help the 2,400-acre plot along by replanting trees and coaxing wildlife back?

“It’s the severity of the burn, how hot was it and did it kill the root systems?” said Barnes. “If it is as severe as it looks, we may have trouble with that.”

Right now, it is a wait and see. First, the DNR needs to see the natural response.

“You will start seeing things coming back, like if we get a rain, we’ll see green up in a week or two,” said Barnes.


The fire burned hot on the surface. They are calling it a “clean burn,” wiping out almost all fuel on the surface but seeing how deep into the ground it burned will be key for re-growth.

“We have what we call the seed bank, which is all the seeds sitting in the soil,” said Barnes. “If it was that hot of a burn where it consumed that, we are going to have a difficult time getting regeneration.”

RELATED: Fire and Drought: Looking at the Threat to Northern Michigan

If the char remains in the coming weeks, the DNR will begin a replanting program.


“If we go ahead and decide to replant it, then efforts will start right away and we will get trees in the ground in the next two to four year span,” said Barnes.

This all hinges on the fire fully going out and will the dry conditions and the breezy weather, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

“Until we get a significant rain,” said Barnes. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

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