NEWBERRY (WWJ/AP) – Two fast-moving wildfires fed by dry conditions in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula burned Friday, one consuming at least 17,000 acres near Lake Superior State Forest and the other burning at least 3,200 acres at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said the blaze it’s calling the Duck Lake Fire was in an area of Luce County north of Newberry that includes the state forest land and approached Lake Superior.
DNR Spokesman Ed Golder said the wildfire has nearly doubled in size, consuming an estimated 17,000 acres, after growing overnight from about 9,500 acres. Golder said dry and windy conditions are expected to cause the blaze to grow.
The Duck Lake Fire was detected Wednesday after a lightning strike, the DNR said, and intensified Thursday – burning along the tops of jack pine trees in the forest.
“Strong winds and high temperatures … enabled the fire to escape,” the DNR said in a statement.
No injuries were reported, the DNR said. An undisclosed number of homes in the Pike Lake area were evacuated because of the blaze. Evacuees were sent to a shelter set up at a youth center in Newberry and were being helped by the American Red Cross.
Amy Witherspoon, 41, said firefighters knocked on the door of her family’s cabin Thursday on Pike Lake and helped them leave. Witherspoon, her 71-year-old father and her 19-year-old daughter all got out safely, grabbing clothing, medicine and a few other belongings.
“There’s a lot of sentimental things there,” Witherspoon said of the cabin, which has been in her family for about 50 years. “We wish we had grabbed the pictures off the wall.”
Witherspoon, who lives in the Lower Peninsula community of Lakeview, about 40 miles northeast of Grand Rapids, didn’t know Friday morning whether the cabin had been damaged. She was among more than a dozen people getting help at the shelter in Newberry. She said area hotels were full.
The fire is one of two major wildfires in the area.
Crews have been fighting a fire at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in northern Schoolcraft County that was started Sunday by a lighting strike. The Seney fire, located west of the Duck Lake Fire, had burned 3,000 to 3,200 acres, or roughly 5 square miles, as of Thursday night.
In an effort to control the blaze, air tankers have been obtaining water from the Big Manistique Lake in Curtis and the helicopter has been collecting water from Refuge pools.
The refuge covers about 95,000 acres. Some area trails and roads were closed, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said Friday.
At the Duck Lake Fire, crews used tractor plows, bulldozers, fire engines and other vehicles to fight the blaze. In addition to dozens of DNR firefighters, crews from several departments in the area were sent to help fight the blaze.
A message seeking updated information about the fire was left with a DNR official.
The DNR said an earlier fire broke out in the area Monday afternoon. Located near Pike Lake, the fire had been contained to 22 acres by Monday night. Crews were working to put out hot spots from that fire Thursday when the Duck Lake Fire broke out.
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