Rainy weekend helps crews battle massive wildfire

Nearly an inch of rain fell Saturday in the eastern Upper Peninsula, leading to improved conditions at the Duck Lake Fire in Luce County. On Sunday afternoon, the Department of Natural Resources reports the fire is now 72 percent contained, at 21,135 acres.

The south end of the fire is 14 miles north of Newberry and 7 miles west of Tahquamenon Falls State Park campgrounds. The lighting-strike caused fire, which was first detected on Thursday, May 24, is long and narrow and stretches 11 miles north to the Lake Superior shoreline.

There are currently 44 miles of fire line, including 6 miles of Lake Superior shoreline, 15 miles of uncontained fire line and 23 miles of completed fire line (which partly includes County Road 500). Access remains very difficult for fire suppression crews, with few roads leading into the fire area.

Fire line supervisors worked on Saturday to identify access points and plan for the completion of the remaining uncontained sections of fire line. Fire crews continued to monitor the lightning fire south of Bodi Lake, and saw crews made significant progress removing hazard trees.

Property damage assessments have been completed at this time. There are 141 properties within the perimeter of the fire, and a total of 136 structures lost, with a breakdown as follows:

49 homes/cabins (including a store and a motel)

23 garages

38 sheds/outbuildings

26 campers

The evacuation order was lifted at 9 a.m. Saturday morning for people with residences in the Pike Lake, Bodi Lake, Culhane Lake and Little Lake Harbor areas. Access to these areas is available from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. Residents entering the opened area are asked to drive with headlights on, and to give emergency vehicles the right-of-way. Residents are required to drive to and from their property only, and may not otherwise travel around the fire area. Snags and hazard trees remain in the area and can fall unexpectedly.

Road closures include County Road 414 east from the intersection with County Road 410 and County Road 500 from M-123 north to Little Lake Harbor, for everyone except residents with property in the reopened parts of the fire area. The fire area remains closed to the general public. While Crisp Point Lighthouse is outside of the fire area, it remains inaccessible due to the closure of County Road 500.

Road access to the mouth of the Two Hearted River remains closed. The Two Hearted River from the Reed and Green Campground and bridge to the mouth at Lake Superior should be avoided; the road closure prevents canoe/boat retrieval at the mouth. Additionally, the Two Hearted ORV Trail is closed east of County Road 414, due to safety concerns from falling snags and extensive trail erosion.

The DNR reminds the public that the Tahquamenon Falls/Paradise Area is open for business. As crews make good progress on the Duck Lake Fire in Luce County, campgrounds, state parks, resorts and other businesses throughout the region and the Upper Peninsula are open and eager to welcome tourists. The community of Paradise is ready for visitors. Tahquamenon Falls State Park was completely untouched by the fire; its Upper Falls viewing area and Lower Falls campground and visitor center are open.

Sunday's Duck Lake Fire incident objectives are to:

Provide for public and firefighter safety.

Fell snags around homes and along roads.

Finish line construction toward division breaks.

Search for spot fires outside the line.

Identify hazard trees around structures and roads for saw crews.

Continue getting GPS data on completed line in all divisions.

Work with other agencies to help facilitate damage assessments to recreation areas and other resources

A total of 222 personnel (of which 50 are overhead personnel) are involved with fire suppression efforts.

(Information & press release courtesy of DNR)