Cooler damp summer season can still lead to a threat to structures from wildland fire

Moderate growing temperatures along with adequate rain help to encourage plant development and growth. This enhanced growth can add to fuel loads and pose an additional threat to structures should a fire get started.

Dead unmowed grass near a camp in Menominee County. Photo Credit: Mike Schira l MSU Extension
Dead unmowed grass near a camp in Menominee County. Photo Credit: Mike Schira l MSU Extension

Just because “we had a lot of rain” does not mean we should relax on our wildfire protection efforts. This could lead to disaster and structure loss. Even though water tables are up and ground may be damp; grasses, herbs and other “weed” species have had a good growing season. Many herbaceous plants die and begin drying out at first frost. Stems of many grasses start drying out as soon as seed ripens.

Plants may still have living roots and tissue while at the same time much of their above ground material is dead and will dry to an easily combustible state with exposure to sunlight and some air movement. Once dried, these areas with accumulations of this unmanaged growth may pose a serious threat to homes, farm building and other structures. Something as simple as a hot catalytic converter on a vehicle or sparks from faulty spark protector on lawn equipment or chainsaws might get a fire started.

If owners have not established a defensible space around structures near these accumulations of dried fuels, there is a real possibility of property loss in the case of fire. Michigan State University Extension, through its Firewise Communities educational program, offers materials and suggestions for how landowners can better protect their structures from potential wildland fire loss.

In addition to establishing a defensible area around structures, some extra landscape maintenance should help reduce the chances of a structure loss. Mow lawns on a periodic basis, clean dead leaves and needles out of eaves and on roofs. Remove dead grass and leaves out from under decks and outdoor stairs. Remove dead or downed branches and limbs near buildings and prune trees up off the ground.

Regardless of whether the building is your home, camp, cottage or even a storage unit, losses are traumatic and can be expensive. Taking a little extra time to assess the situation and address problem areas can make the difference between relative secure structures and a loss. Preventing wildland fires is a first priority but taking proper steps to insure safety of buildings should be the next important step.

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