Fire crews battle 70-acre wildfire in Upper Peninsula

Some of the roughly 70 acres burned by the Marquette County
Road 601 fire in Humboldt Township Thursday, July 30.
(Michigan DNR photos)
Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) firefighters and crews from four township volunteer fire departments continue to battle a roughly 70-acre wildfire in the Upper Peninsula's Marquette County, which was first reported Thursday afternoon (July 30).

According to a DNR release, the fire was 60% contained by Thursday night. The cause of the fire has not been determined. No injuries have been reported. DNR fire crews have experienced some mechanical problems with firefighting equipment, but mechanics were on the scene.

Although there are several private and state park campgrounds in the area, none are believed to have been affected.

At about 1:05 p.m. Thursday, tower personnel at Sawyer International Airport in Marquette reported seeing smoke. A short time later, a DNR pilot was able to fly over the scene, which is located alongside County Road 601 about 4 miles northeast of Republic in Humboldt Township.

Flames move through wood piles in the fire zone.
At that time, the fire had burned about 10 acres in an area where logging had occurred last winter. Loggers had just begun working over the past day or so to test a newly built road for hauling timber off the site.

“The slash, stumps, debris and stacked piles of logs made for good fuel for the fire, but made it more difficult for firefighters working to build a containment line around the fire,” said Pete Glover, incident commander on the fire for the DNR.

By around 5 p.m. the size of the fire had increased to about 30 acres and fire crews tried to keep the blaze within the footprint of the logging operation. High temperatures and strong winds had helped fuel the fire.

Thursday afternoon, the temperature on the fire scene was 76 degrees, with a relative humidity of 36 percent and winds from the west at 16 mph, gusting to 23.

By 7:24 p.m., the fire had blackened more acreage and had reached the trees beyond the logged area. Crews from the Humboldt, Champion, Ishpeming and Republic townships volunteer fire departments were also on the scene.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources Gwinn Fire
Supervisor Pete Glover gets an update on conditions
Thursday evening in Humboldt Township.
At least 40 firefighters were working on the fire, working in two divisions.

“The fire remains 'uncontained' and at last report was 70 acres,” DNR Resource Protection Section Manager Paul Kollmeyer said. “We have seven dozers and six engines working through heavy fuels and rough rocky terrain. Structures are not immediately threatened and are being protected by the local volunteer fire departments.”

Kollmeyer called in some units from Wisconsin to help backfill positions for local DNR firefighters who had been called to the blaze.

Joe Derocha of the Humboldt Township Fire Department — who was coordinating efforts for Glover between the township fire departments — said there was “outstanding cooperation” between the DNR and the local firefighting crews.

Derocha said the Lundin Mining Corp. had allowed use of the water supply from the Humboldt Mill to aid firefighters in battling the blaze.

Firefighters from the Champion Township Fire Department
pour water on a burning deck of logs.
Glover said once the fire had hit a mix of hardwoods and in another area nearby, a spruce and balsam stand, the fire began to slow its spread. Crews then began to gain a better handle on containing the blaze.

“The changing fuel type, that’s what slowed it down the most,” Glover said.

Crews were expected to be taken off the fire around midnight because of the inherent danger of trying to fight the fire in the dark. The blaze would continue to be monitored overnight by firefighters.

A briefing for early this morning (July 31) has been scheduled before crews return to the fire line. At that session, firefighters will have a better assessment of Thursday’s progress in containing and controlling the blaze. They will also plan for Friday’s efforts.

Township firemen dump water into a container to help battle
the County Road 601 fire Thursday evening in Humboldt Township.
David Holli of Holli Forest Products in Ishpeming, Mich., owned the logs. He estimated the loss of timber was $150,000 at a minimum. He expected to have a better calculation of the loss today.

DNR officials continue to urge extreme caution with fire as weather is expected to remain conducive to spreading wildfires over the next few days.