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Fire officials warn against controlled burns during dry spell

Posted at 11:11 PM, Mar 22, 2015

LOWELL, Mich.—West Michigan hasn’t seen rain in 19 days, since March 3. While we’ve been enjoying great weather, this comes with a high fire risk. If you’re trying to rid your yard of excess brush and think a controlled burn is the way to do it, now would not be the time do that, say fire officials.

There were about a dozen reported grass and brush fires in Kent County over the weekend.

One of those fires burned more than 20 acres of farm land in Lowell. The fire was caused by a neighbor burning excess brush, according to Todd Drenth. Drenth’s family has owned farmland in Lowell for 111 years.

The fire his neighbor started spread to 20 acres of their 200 acres of land on Saturday afternoon.

“I saw a big cloud of smoke rolling over the horse farm,” said Drenth, who said he has never seen a brush fire as big as that one on his land. He says he saw flames were reaching six feet because of the wind.

“We've done some controlled bonfires to get rid of some of the wood that comes in and encroaches the field, but I have never seen it just take off and threaten a whole field and neighborhood,” he said.

Drenth was worried that the fire would reach the houses that surround the land, as well as a miniature horse farm that was just yards away from the flames.

Crews from Cascade Township Fire Department, Lowell Township Fire Department, and Ada Township Fire Department put out the fire before any real damage was done to homes or the horse farm.

Lt. Pat Du Vall of Plainfield Township Fire Department says most townships require a burn permit.

“In Plainfield Township, we have a burn ordinance that requires you to get a permit, and there are certain times where you can burn. In other jurisdictions they may not have a burning ordinance,” said Lt. Du Vall.

Whether you are required to have a burn permit or not, you should check with your local fire department to see if your area carries a high fire risk, or you can go to http://www.michigan.gov\dnr, where a map indicates areas that are at a high fire risk.

“Right now, the map indicates that the fire danger warning is high, so right now you shouldn't burn at all,” he said.