A deadly wildfire in Northern Michigan burned at least 3,600 acres, triggering evacuation by the au-thorities and forcing a highway closure nearby as the blaze threatens multiple buildings in the west and southwest, officials said Saturday.
The fire is centered in Grayling Township about 50 miles from Traverse City. The Wilderness Trail Fire in Crawford County started around 1pm about 4 miles (6.4 km) southeast of Grayling near Staley Lake in Grayling Township, the Department of Natural Resources said in a statement.
The fire had burned 2,400 acres (3.75 square miles) before midnight, natural resources department spokesperson Kathleen Lavey said. Firefighters are attacking the flames from the ground and the air, with aircraft scooping water from Neff Lake, Shellenbarger Lake and Lake Margrethe, according to the statement.
Crawford County Sheriff Ryan Swope said that power in the area has been shut off for the safety of firefighters working under power lines.
It’s still unknown what sparked the fire, the statement noted.
The fire is burning as Michigan sees “unprecedented” hot and dry conditions for this time of year, setting the stage for extreme fire danger, the statement underlined.
Thick smoke has engulfed the area with the de-partment warning nearby residents to limit exposure by staying indoors with windows shut.
The Department of Natural Resources also said visibility may be reduced on roadways. Warm temperatures, low humidity, gusty winds and dry fuels will all combine to fuel the risk of fires in the days ahead, the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids said in a tweet.
The Red Cross responded to assist those who were evacuated and a shelter was established at Beaver Creek Township Hall.
The emergency response teams from the US Forest Service, federal Bureau of Land Management and Michigan police and fire departments continued working with the natural resources department to combat the fire with ground crews, aeroplanes, helicopters and heavy equipment, the statement said.
What ignited the deadly blaze is not yet known. The statement further stated that a temporary flight restriction was enacted for a 5-mile (8-km) perimeter around the fire below 5,000 feet (1,534 meters).—AFP