Posted by: Kath Usitalo | May 20, 2010

On Wildfire and Firefighters

Firemen's Memorial, Roscommon

Wildfire broke out Tuesday afternoon southeast of Grayling when the wind picked up as someone, with a permit, burned leaves. Called the Meridian Boundary Fire, it has spread across 8,800 acres and destroyed a dozen homes. About 140 firefighters are battling the blaze, which has reached an area near Roscommon just a short distance from the cabin in the woods that my dad built when we were kids.

A moose (sculpture) on a neighbor's jack pine wooded lot near our famiy cabin in Roscommon

This region of the Northern Lower Peninsula is prime territory for the jack pine, a not-so-pretty tree that burns fast and hot, with flames shooting high into the air, often jumping from tree to tree.

The jack pine’s survival depends on the intense heat of fires that force open its cones, which then reseed the burnt ground.

Of all the forests in all the world the rare, yellow-breasted Kirtland’s Warbler almost exclusively prefers this jack pine habitat, and each spring returns from its winter accommodations in the Bahamas.

I’ve been following with concern the updates on the wildfire, tweeted by WPBN-TV reporter Andrew Keller and news posted on the station’s website. I also discovered helpful info in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment(DNRE) tweets and Facebook page.

DNRE is responsible for control of wildfires, with help from the U.S. Forest Service and local fire departments. April through June is wildfire season in Michigan, and with less-than-normal precipitation this winter and spring, the danger is especially high. Even prior to the Meridian Boundary Fire the number of acres destroyed by wildfires across Michigan are up this year compared to last.

In addition to the wildfire near Roscommon, northern Michigan firefighters are dealing with the Range 9 fire in Kalkaska County, which has burned over 1,000 acres, and a fire that broke out Wednesday evening in downtown Gaylord.

Our appreciation and thanks go out to the firefighters and volunteers who are aiding their efforts. All of this activity reminded me of the Fireman’s Memorial in Roscommon, which recognizes those “who gave the supreme sacrifice of their lives while protecting their communities.”

Each September firefighters and EMS personnel and their families gather in Roscommon for a memorial service at the site, followed by a parade, equipment display, competitions, demonstrations, and food and fun activities.

The public is invited to the event; check out the website for the 31st Annual Michigan Firemen’s Memorial Festival , September 16-19 in Roscommon.

If you’re traveling I-75 through Northern Michigan make the short detour at exit 239 to see the Firemen’s Memorial.

And please remember those words from  Smokey Bear: Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.

(Did you know Smokey is celebrating his 65th birthday?) - Get Your Smokey On - Only You Can Prevent Wildfires

The Firemen's Memorial in Roscommon was dedicated in 1980



  1. My mom (who lives in Rose City) was telling me about these fires the other day….I always say a prayer for the firefighters and their safety as they struggle to contain the blazes. We’re still on EXTREME fire danger here – even the moss is crunchy!

    Thanx for all the tips so far…we’ll be there the weekend of June 25th. I eagerly await your other fun info!

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