NEWBERRY, Mich. (AP) — A wildfire in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula grew by 17 percent to more than 21,000 acres Saturday as officials warned of tough conditions and welcomed help from water-dumping aircraft from the Michigan National Guard.
Wind gusts were predicted at 15 mph and high temperatures were in the 60s in a dry, remote part of the state where access has been tricky because there are few roads. Tahquamenon Falls State Park, a popular destination for campers seven miles from the fire, was closed.
The fire, known as the Duck Lake Fire, was 20 percent contained in Luce County, about 75 miles northeast of the Mackinac Bridge, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said. The fire was described as long and narrow, stretching 11 miles north to Lake Superior.
Fewer than 100 people have been evacuated, said Dean Wilson, a spokesman for the fire management team.
More than 40 structures have been threatened and at least six are lost. It’s not clear whether they were homes or outbuildings. Wilson said he didn’t have an update Saturday.
“Structure protection is high priority and is being closely monitored from the air. … Potential for blow-up conditions” continues, the Department of Natural Resources said in a statement.
The Rainbow Lodge, which includes a campground, motel and cabins near Lake Superior, was closed. A recorded message by co-owner Kathy Robinson said she had been evacuated and that the property may have been damaged by fire.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
Some people more than 100 miles away in the northern Lower Peninsula reported smelling smoke. The Michigan National Guard dispatched four aircraft and 40 people to the Duck Lake fire and another in Schoolcraft County.
“The Blackhawks typically hoist 900-gallon buckets to unload water on fires. This method has proven very successful in wildfires in other regions,” said a spokesman, Capt. Aaron Jenkins.
Wilson said curious people on all-terrain vehicles must stay away.
“It’s not a big problem but it does exist. If the wind picks up, the ignition of dry fuel is almost instantaneous,” he said.
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