Our Stories

Fire and Flood Safety

Categories: Safety

by Kenny Wawsczyk, Michigan Regional Trail Coordinator

As I write this article today’s high is 65 o but for the past couple weeks it has been hot and humid. And the extended forecast looks to be the same. There’s a lot of clichés about Michigan’s weather and what happened to areas of the Trail during the week of July 10th confirmed them.

The far Western U.P, near the Little and Big Carp Rivers, received over a foot of rain in just four hours along with hurricane speed winds causing trees to uproot, bridges to wash out and left parts of the Trail in up to four feet of water. It was so bad the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park officials had to ask hikers and campers to stay out of that area.

Bridge wash out in Wisconsin
Bridge washout along the Black River between Conglomerate & Potawatomi Falls. Photo by Dick Swanson.

Meanwhile over in the Eastern U.P the Hiawatha National Forest had to close a section of Trail due to a wildfire south of Soldier Lake Campground. The “Pine Plantation Fire” burned 56 acres and even called for a Type III helicopter with a water bucket.

Duck Lake area burned in 2012. Photo by Thomas Walker
Duck Lake area burned in 2012. Photo by Thomas Walker, taken this summer.

These stories quickly hit social media thanks to our Chapters and various hikers that got the word out to those planning their U.P trips.

Although you can’t plan for everything, these incidents are reminders to us all of the importance of planning ahead. This is easy to do on day or weekend hikes since we no longer need to wait for the local news to tell us the extended forecast.

Websites and apps can quickly tell us the upcoming forecast and show radar in motion. Yet when you’re out on extended trips or in areas with little to no service, it is difficult to know the upcoming forecast.

Whether it’s a long dry spell or a pop-up thunderstorm, being prepared for any situation is the safe and smart thing to do. So, what would you do if you saw smoke or if a big storm rolled in? Although it’s a situation you never want to be in, it is something you should think about. Knowing the signs and having a plan are key components to staying safe.

For fire safety

Know the weather conditions before you head out. Also know when it is peak fire season in that area.

Is it warm and dry with little humidity? When was the last time it rained? How windy is it?

As always let someone know when and where you are leaving and give an approximate time to your return location.

Use the register boxes our Chapters provide not only because they want to know who’s on the Trail but local Rangers can use them to see if anyone is in the area should an emergency occur.

If you do see smoke don’t try to investigate simply get out of that area even if it means your trip is cut short. If fire is close by head downhill and upwind. Remember particular crossing like large grassy, sandy or boggy areas with little surrounding fuel sources, or of course river crossings and lakes.

To help prevent wildfires know the local burn bans and use a contained source when making a fire. Keep your campfire small and when the ashes are cool to the touch that’s when the fire is completely out.

For thunderstorm safety

Review Wildbackpaer.com’s article “If there’s no shelter where do I go

Review our Thunderstorm Safety Tips.

Have you ever been caught on the Trail during a storm or near a fire? What did you do?