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Crews mostly contain 2,400-acre wildfire near Grayling; I-75 reopens

More than 1,000 acres of woods near Grayling were on fire Saturday, amid three weeks without rain. Evacuations had begun Saturday evening. (Photo courtesy of Michigan State Police)
  • No injuries reported in the fire, which grew from 1,000 to 3,000 acres in a few hours Saturtday
  • Rainfall is well below normal in much of Michigan
  • Evacuation order lifted; Interstate 75 reopens

June 8: Michigan bills would give farmers ‘right to repair’ tractors, equipment
June 7: Millions under air advisory in Michigan due to wildfires: How to stay safe
June 5: Grayling wildfire could just be the start. Whitmer discourages campfires

Crews worked overnight Sunday to slow a forest wildfire in Crawford County amid unusually dry conditions that have much of Michigan at extreme risk for fire.

The fire began at 1 p.m. Saturday and had grown swiftly to 3,000 acres before it was cut back to 2,400 acres. Burning 4 miles southeast of Grayling near Staley Lake Road, the blaze had closed Interstate 75 and prompted evacuation orders.

The freeway reopened late Saturday and the evacuation orders, which relocated people to Beaver Creek Township Hall, were lifted by Sunday morning.By 5 p.m. Sunday, the blaze was 85 percent contained, state officials said.

Aircraft carried water from nearby lakes to fight the blaze. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

On Saturday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced she was activating the State Emergency Operations Center in response to the Crawford County fire and a forest fire over 250 acres to 300 acres in Iosco County.


“By taking this action, we can ensure state and local first responders have what they need to get this fire contained and prevent loss of life or property. I want to thank the first responders who have been working to keep Michiganders safe," Whitmer said. 

Media outlets reported the fire began with a private campfire.

Earlier this week, Bridge Michigan reported there were more than three dozen fires in northern Michigan. National Weather Service data indicates that the last day of rain in the area of Grayling was nearly a month ago, May 7. 

    May’s rainfall was more than an inch below normal in much of the state, while temperatures have been in the upper 80s for the past several days. Federal meteorologists warn of an increased risk of drought in much of the Midwest this summer. 

    “Drought indices really have never been this high in the month of May,” Paul Rogers, a fire prevention specialist at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources told Bridge this week. “We're probably running about double the number of fires we normally have just because it’s so dry.”.

    Much of Michigan remains at high risk for fire due to unseasonably warm and dry conditions. (Courtesy photo)

    Northern Michigan is already affected by hazy conditions of smoke carried by wind from wildfires in eastern Canada. 

    The DNR reported that crews from the U.S. Forest Service and Michigan State Police fought the blaze from the air.  The state placed a 5-mile flight restriction in a 5-mile perimeter of the area for small aircraft and drones.

    Editor's note: This story has been updated repeatedly as conditions of the fire changed 

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