Area fire departments urge caution for spring cleanup burns

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN – Fire departments across the Berrien and Cass counties were busy over the past weekend responding to regular calls as well as grass and field fires.

Now, with spring weather on the way, department leaders are urging residents to use caution when burning brush on their properties.

The Dowagiac Fire Department responded to at least three calls for grass fires over the past weekend, according to Deputy Chief Robert Smith.

“Cass County, as a whole, was very busy with numerous field and grass fires,” Smith said. “It was dry. It was windy. Things were getting away from people who were legitimately just trying to clean up their yard. It just wasn’t a good weekend to be burning.”

Smith said he has seen many area departments urging residents on social media to be careful.

On the “Howard Firefighters” Facebook page, administrators of the page have posted updates from the National Weather Service on wind and precipitation that may impact burn permits issued prior to the weather changes including higher wind speeds.

According to Buchanan Township Fire Department Chief Tim Jesswein, there were about 11 grass or field fires the prior weekend in the greater area.

“Benton Harbor [area] had several calls,” Jesswein said.

Lieutenant Paul Rainwater, from the Niles Charter Township Fire Department, said the township received three different calls. One on Friday and two on Sunday.

“It’s a combination of the dry weather and the wind,” Rainwater said. “We are inch and a half shy of the normal conditions of rainfall, and we are getting those southerly winds which are a nice warm, dry air. People are just underestimating the ability of the wind to carry a small fire and make it a large one very rapidly.”

Howard Township Fire Chief Chris Corzine said it is not unusual to have grass fires this time of year, but that the number of them this year kept departments throughout Berrien and Cass counties out “nonstop” responding to calls.
Corzine said one of the fires was simply a burn on open ground that the wind caught and carried the flames.

“That’s typically what has been happening,” Corzine said. “[Residents] are not respecting the wind and the dryness. It takes one gust of wind, and it’s out of control. They’re all starting out as burning on their own like normal. The wind wasn’t really expected.”

Jesswein said with the snow melted and gone, everything is still dry from the fall and winter.

“It makes it crisp and easy to burn,” Jesswein said. “People go out and burn trash barrels in the country. The sparks come off of that and catch the field or woods on fire, or anything that’s nearby.”

All agencies urged residents to use caution when having a fire to burn brush, especially when conditions are dry and windy.

“When burning, you are supposed to be tending [the fire] at all times,” Jesswein said.

Dowagiac

Retired Dowagiac resident returns to teaching at 80

Cass County

Report finds problem-solving courts help lower recidivism, unemployment rates

Business

Yarn on Front owner shares how she adapted, overcame pandemic squeeze

Dowagiac

DUS graduate raising money for independent film project

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Rotary Club excited to bring ‘welcome’ sign to community

Berrien County

MDHHS extends epidemic order, strengthens mask requirement for children

Buchanan

Buchanan District Library awarded American Library Association grant

Dowagiac

SMC Board of Trustees prepares for Higher Learning Commission reaffirmation visit

Cass County

Cass County votes to engage Kalamazoo studio for Cass County Historic Courthouse services

Berrien County

Buchanan graduate now Berrien County prosecuting attorney

Cass County

Cass County Veterans Affairs Office welcomes new leadership

Edwardsburg

Edwardsburg Chamber of Commerce hosting monthly giveaways

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 770,822 cases, 16,731 deaths

Dowagiac

No danger found following lockdown at DUHS

News

Berrien County Public Defender’s Office to increase staff

Berrien County

Buchanan man named 911 Telecommunicator of the Year

Dowagiac

Dowagiac man arrested for possession of meth

Education

Niles teacher accused of assault pleads not guilty

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Police Log: April 7-13

Berrien County

LMC to host virtual career, program expo for prospective students

Dowagiac

Dowagiac woman to compete in ‘Jeopardy!’ 2021 Tournament of Champions

Business

Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce hosts ribbon-tying ceremonies for two new businesses

Dowagiac

Four arrested in Dowagiac drug search

Berrien County

Niles city, DART consider south county expansion