CHOCOLAY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJMN) – Have you ever wondered how wildfires are detected and managed?
Keith Murphy is a fire management specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. His job is crucial in keeping wildfires under control in the Upper Peninsula.
“Every other week I’m in charge of the U.P. for fire management purposes, fire staffing, fire detection, fire response; our initial attack how we respond to fires,” said Murphy.
In the summer months, Murphy spends a lot of time researching weather patterns.
“Most recently, you know, a lot of thunderstorms coming through in the summer here, so you look at a lot of lightning data, see where the lightning’s hitting, where our potential problems could come from, wildfires.”
As of July 20, there were only two active wildfires in the U.P. At the beginning of July, a 203-acre wildfire burned in the Creighton marsh area, north of M-28 in Schoolcraft County. A lightning strike is considered the most probable cause of the fire, but the blaze remains under investigation. That fire is currently being managed by the Michigan DNR. The most recent wildfire was on Sunday, July 17 when a fire plume was spotted less than a mile from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The cause of the fire is still being determined.
“It’s holding at 46 acres. It’s 100 percent contained but we’re still mopping up. We’ll be mopping that up through the weekend. We still have folks from the Shingleton management unit on it. So Shingleton field office, Seney field office, Thompson field office, are on that fire through the weekend. We’re getting help from the National Park Service we have a four-person crew from them also plus some park rangers doing security and keeping people away from the active fire area.”
According to the Michigan DNR, over the past decade, 271 wildfires in Michigan have been attributed to lightning strikes, charring a total of 43,800 acres – the highest acreage of all other causes, including significant Upper Peninsula blazes like the Sleeper Lake Fire in 2007 and the Duck Lake Fire of 2012.
Murphy said one way to make his job easier is to practice fire safety to prevent wildfires. For fire safety tips, click here.