Environment & Science
9:40 am
Sat May 26, 2012

Wildfires prompt Michigan's governor to declare state of disaster

Governor Rick Snyder has declared a state of disaster in the Upper Peninsula counties of Luce and Schoolcraft, where wildfires already have consumed more than 20,000 acres.

Snyder's declaration Friday means all state resources will be made available to protect public health and safety in the ongoing efforts to fight the wildfires.

The declaration also may permit authorities to evacuate and establishes a fireworks ban in the two affected counties as well as an outdoor burning ban in 49 counties.

Snyder also issued an executive order activating the National Guard to provide assistance.

The governor said in a statement his office is "committed to work together with local, state and federal emergency personnel to protect our citizens and communities from the dangers of these significant fires."

 The U.S. Department of the Interior says a fire in the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has burned 3,400 acres.

A news release issued by the department Friday night said the fire was about 70 percent contained.

The refuge covers about 95,000 acres. The fire is in the northeastern corner, a mixture of forests and bogs.

The wildfire was ignited by lightning and first reported on Monday.

The Interior Department says increased containment and forecasted wind directions will allow it to open an auto tour and nature trail for the holiday weekend.

Authorities have closed sections of Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the Upper Peninsula because of an approaching wildfire.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said Friday the park's Lower Falls campground and Upper Falls viewing area are off-limits. Visitors are being evacuated.

Park staffers have notified more than 100 campers. Some have canceled their reservations. Others have relocated from the Lower Falls campground to the Rivermouth campground or to Muskallonge Lake State Park.

The DNR says if the fire continues on its current path, it will get to within one mile of the Upper Falls viewing area by Friday night. Officials urged visitors to avoid the Tahquamenon Falls area during the Memorial Day weekend.

The Duck Lake Fire has burned nearly 20,000 acres in Luce County.