A Niles Township firefighter responds to a grass fire last week on Weaver Road in Niles. Leader file photo
A Niles Township firefighter responds to a grass fire last week on Weaver Road in Niles. Leader file photo

Archived Story

Grass fires keeping firefighters busy

Published 11:49am Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Conditions are ripe for grass fires in southwestern Michigan.

Gary Brovold, Niles Township Fire Chief, said his department has responded to around eight grass fire calls this spring.

It isn’t unusual for this time of the year, he said, because the dead grass, sticks and leaves are pushed tight against the ground after the snow pack melts away. Adding sunshine and wind to the mix makes it even more of a dangerous situation.

“It’s just a volatile cocktail sitting right there on the ground waiting for a spark,” he said. “Everything is dead and dry on the ground — it’s just a blanket of fuel.”

On Monday afternoon around 6 p.m., firefighters from Niles Township, Niles City, Clay Township, Howard Township and Edwardsburg spent two hours extinguishing a grass fire on Ironwood Road between the state line and Redfield Road in Cass County.

It started when garbage burning on the ground — illegal in Michigan — spread to other piles of garbage and into a nearby field. Two boats on the property were destroyed, but no structures were damaged.

Brovold said fires, like this one, could be avoided if residents follow the rules.

“It’s the carelessness of people burning and not paying attention where these things happen,” he said.

Niles Township residents wanting to burn on the ground are required to contact the fire station for a burning permit.

Brovold said conditions would likely remain ripe for grass fires the rest of the week.

“Until we get the rain where the grass starts to green and the moisture is laying on the ground, it is going to be a hazard,” he said.

According to the township’s burning ordinance, residents do not need a permit to burn in barrels, as long as a spark arrester is used.

Brovold reminds residents it is illegal to burn garbage in Michigan.

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