- Associated Press - Sunday, April 30, 2017

GLADSTONE, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service is planning to intentionally set fire to nearly 1,200 acres of land in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this year as a way of helping the environment.

The 10 fires are scheduled from this spring and summer to early fall depending on the weather. They will be set in both the east and west zones of Hiawatha National Forest, which covers nearly 895,000 acres in the Upper Peninsula.

“They (the NFS Wildland Firefighters) take a weather reading every day in hopes that they find conditions that are suitable,” said Janel Crooks, public affairs officer for the Forest Service.

Rangers have cautioned that smoke may be visible at times from these fires, and residents who live nearby can be alerted in advance if they have health concerns. Crooks said the Forest Service works hard to give at least a 24-hour notice to the public before any burns occur.

The Forest Service said the burns are being used as a tool to improve habitat in jack pine stands for some wildlife, and to reduce natural material on the ground that could be a fast-acting fuel for accidental fires.

Forest officials said that two of last year’s 26 accidental fires were caused by lightning strikes. The forest fires burned 135 acres and kept firefighters scrambling in the Hiawatha Forest around this time in 2016.

Crooks said the fires themselves typically only last for a day, but firefighters will stay on patrol until the area is completely under control.

National Forest Wildland Firefighters will later decide when specifically to set the areas ablaze.

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Information from: The Evening News, https://www.sooeveningnews.com

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