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Michigan cities add burn bans as wildfire danger remains high amid drought

Aircraft flying over forrest fire in Michigan
A campfire in Crawford County ignited a blaze that spread to 3,000 acres last weekend. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
  • East Lansing, Lansing and Battle Creek issue burn bans following fire near Grayling last weekend
  • Much of northern Michigan is under a ‘red flag’ alert for severe risk of wildfires, and burning debris is prohibited
  • Some relief could be coming Sunday, as rain is forecast

July 17: Michigan air quality unhealthy again Monday because of Canadian wildfires
June 30: Air quality, heavy traffic will impact Michigan travel over holiday weekend
June 29: Air quality warning pushed to Friday in Michigan; doctors urge outdoor limits
June 28: When will the smoke clear in Michigan? What you need to know in the meantime

Hot and dry conditions have prompted many cities in Michigan to issue burn bans. Now, more municipalities are following suit. 

Last weekend, a small campfire on private property 4 miles southeast of Grayling devastated nearly 3,000 acres. Days later, smoke from Canadian wildfires drifted into Michigan, briefly causing Detroit to be listed as having some of the world’s worst air pollution.

Northern Michigan and some parts of the Upper Peninsula on Thursday are under a red flag warning, which means the combination of wind and low humidity pose a severe threat of fire.

map of places that have banned burning debris in Michigan
Burning open debris is forbidden in northern Michigan due to dry conditions. The state has not had significant rain in one month. Burning debris is forbidden in brown counties. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

On Tuesday, the Battle Creek Fire Department prohibited open burning and recreational fires and bonfires due to hot and dry conditions until further notice. Outdoor grills can still be used, but officials advise residents to keep water and a fire extinguisher nearby. 


Lansing followed suit until June 30, while East Lansing also issued a similar ban until further notice. Violators could face a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine or a 90-day prison sentence.

Battle Creek officials said they will re-evaluate the burn ban after this weekend. Rain is forecast in much of Michigan on Sunday and Monday. 

“What we’re expecting this weekend and early next week will certainly help,” said Dan Cornish, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Gaylord. “Some areas could get an inch (of rainfall) maybe even more through early next week.” 

Much of Michigan hasn’t had rain since early May.


Southeast Michigan could get up to a half of an inch of rainfall, which would put the region at the average amount of rainfall expected for this time of year. 

While other cities including Saginaw, Mason, Dewitt and Bay City have issued their burn bans, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has not announced a statewide ban, citing the chance of rain this weekend.

“There's not been a rule that's been announced, but everyone's got to be really smart,” Whitmer said this week.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is not issuing any burn permits, which allows people to burn yard waste and paper materials.


Also, the DNR has banned burning debris in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula due to the red flag warning. A significant amount of rain would be needed in order to lift that ban, Laurie Abel spokesperson for the DNR said. 

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service has placed much of southeast Michigan under an air quality alert effective until Friday due to haze from Canadian wildfires that have affected the East Coast and upper Midwest. 

Air quality still remains unhealthy for sensitive groups. 

The Southeast East Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) announced that Thursday is an Ozone Action Day for southeast Michigan, which means residents should avoid mowing until evening, drive less and avoid gassing up cars during daytime hours.

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