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Fire season got started a month early in northern Michigan

The U.S. Army

Fire crews with the state’s Department of Natural Resources responded to over 50 fires in recent days, including assisting at a 600-acreblaze near the Manistee National Forest on Monday.

It’s been a strange beginning to fire season.

“This really all started last fall—we went into the winter with a moisture deficit,” says Don Klingler, a wildfire expert with Michigan’s DNR.

Then the state didn’t get much snow.

“There are some places that are 90 inches of snow below normal,” he says. 

That left grass that didn’t get packed down and dry logs primed to burn.

“It’s allowing the fires to get up into the low-hanging limbs on trees and then climb up the trees a lot easier,” says Steven Cameron, a forest fire supervisor at the DNR's Traverse City office.

The arrival of dry air in the last week fanned flames over dozens of acres in Kalkaska, Antrim and Alcona counties. That's nearly a month earlier than is typical for wildfires in northern Michigan. 

The rest of the spring is expected to be warmer than normal, while predictions for rainfall have been mixed.

“If it’s normal, it means a very busy year for us,” says Klingler.

Fire season typically runs through early June, as forests turn green.

Lexi Krupp reports on science and the environment. Previously, she worked for Gimlet Media where she helped the Science Vs team distinguish what's fact from what's not. Her work has appeared in Audubon, Popular Science, VICE, and elsewhere.