Crews have 80-acre ‘County Road 601’ wildfire in Marquette County 95% contained

Fire crews work on the edge of the fire Thursday. The foliage shows
the green and burned area dividing line. (DNR photos)
Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) firefighters and crews from township volunteer fire departments returned to the line around the “County Road 601” wildfire (Marquette County) Friday (July 31) after a morning briefing in Ishpeming Township.

Pete Glover, the DNR’s incident commander on the blaze, said the fire was estimated at 80 acres, after better visibility over the fire and mapping the previous day helped delineate the extent of the burned area.

“The fire held within the containment lines last night,” Glover said. “It didn’t move.”

The fire was 95% contained Friday morning, with the remaining area where fire line needs to be built situated in low ground, with swamp.

Glover said crews would be working Friday to finish containing the fire and then begin the long process of mopping up (using foam to put out individual hot spots), which – depending on the weather – is expected to last for several days.

“We’re going to be working from the perimeter in toward the center of the fire,” Glover said. “Our goal for today is to have 25 feet in from the outer edge 100 percent mopped up.”

No injuries have been reported. The cause of the blaze has not been determined. DNR staff was investigating today.

Firefighters check in Friday morning at the
Michigan DNR office in Ishpeming Township.
Overnight, piles of logs that were on fire at the site were consumed, reducing the heat of the fire Friday.

Thursday evening, the fire was at 70 acres and 60 percent contained. DNR fire crews have experienced some mechanical problems with firefighting equipment, but mechanics were on the scene.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday, tower personnel at Sawyer International Airport reported seeing smoke. A short time later, a DNR pilot flew over the scene, which is located about 4 miles northeast of Republic in Humboldt Township.

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 stumps, logging 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,” Glover said.

At 5 p.m. Thursday 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.

Thursday evening the fire had burned more acreage and reached the trees beyond the logged area. Crews from the Humboldt, Champion, Ishpeming and Republic townships’ volunteer fire departments also were on the scene.

Michigan DNR Gwinn Fire Supervisor Pete Glover briefs
firefighters Friday morning at the DNR office in Ishpeming
Township. Crews returned to the fire line Friday.
Those departments, with the exception of Ishpeming Township, returned Friday.

DNR resource protection section manager Paul Kollmeyer called in firefighters and equipment from Wisconsin to help backfill positions for local DNR firefighters who had been called to the blaze.

The assistance from Wisconsin was provided as part of the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact Agreement.

Friday morning, there were 30 DNR staff on the fire and 16 pieces of DNR equipment assigned 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 wildfire.

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.

David Holli of Holli Forest Products in Ishpeming, Michigan, 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 later 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. For safety and prevention tips, visit the DNR website

“Isolated rain showers are possible today resulting in meager amounts of precipitation where it occurs,” Kollmeyer said. “Elevated fire danger is expected to continue until significant rain occurs. The best chance of rain is 50 percent Sunday and Monday.”