With over 50 percent of the Duck Lake wildfire in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula under control, authorities have opened Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which was closed for nearly a week.
The wildfire, which has engulfed over 21,000 acres the Upper Peninsula, was started by a lightning strike on May 23. Since it reached its present size, it has been burning in an area 14 miles north of the town of Newberry, to the shoreline of Lake Superior, 11 miles to the north. At one point, officials feared high winds could drive the fire to within one mile of Tahquamenon Falls State Park, but crews have held the fire line and it now stands seven miles from the popular sightseeing destination.
According to information released today by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the fire has so far destroyed 34 homes or cabins, 22 garages, 22 sheds and outbuildings and17 campers. The blaze is also responsible for the destruction of a small store and motel.
As the Duck Lake fire burned last week, fire fighters were also battling a blaze at Seney National Wildlife Refuge, less than 30 miles to the west. At its largest, the fire at Seney NWR covered 3,500 acres of this important wildlife area.
In an update issued today by Jennifer McDonough, visitors services specialist at Seney, the fire was declared under control with 98 percent of it contained. With the fire under control and nearly extinguished, much of the refuge has been reopened to visitors.
With these two fires having caused so much damage and placing a massive strain on local and state resources, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared the counties of Luce and Superior, where the fires were located, as disaster areas. This allowed the authorizes to issue mandatory evacuation orders along with the activation of the Michigan National Guard to offer assistance in the firefighting efforts. For residents of the area that have been impacted by the fire, it could also offer access to special programs that will allow them to recover from the disaster.
In a plea from the DNR, it has asked that any landowners who have structures in the area affected by the fire make contact with them so authorities can provide information on what damage has been done. For those in the Upper Peninsula, they can do this by calling the three digit information number of 211. Those outside the area are asked to call 800-338-1119. Land owners can use these same contact numbers to arrange for escort into the area to check on their property.
As efforts continue to totally contain and finally extinguish the Duck Lake fire, local authorities are continuing to assess the damage done to the area. It will take years to determine the final toll of the fire when it comes to wildlife, recreation and the logging industry located there.
Updates are being posted daily on the DNR website, where individuals can sign up for email updates, at the DNR Twitter! feed and on the agencies Facebook page.
Stay up to date when there is breaking news that affects the outdoors and for stories about camping and backpacking by clicking the Subscribe Button above.
Don’t forget to follow author Lawrence DiVizio on Twitter!