Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the latest information from state officials.
Firefighters worked through the night Saturday to battle a wildfire in Crawford County near Grayling that grew to an estimated 2,400 acres, forced temporary evacuations by emergency crews and closed I-75 for much of Saturday, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said.
The DNR said on Facebook that the wildfire was about 85% contained as of noon Sunday. I-75 was reopened in both directions and evacuations were ordered has been lifted.
According to the DNR’s Laurie Abel, the fire started around 1 a.m. Saturday on private property.
DNR firefighters, along with local and federal firefighters, are battling the blaze in Grayling Township, about four miles southeast of Grayling. The fire has moved west and southwest and many buildings are under threat.
“Crews were working in hilly, sandy terrain and it was tough,” said Mike Janis, incident commander with the Michigan DNR Incident Management Team, which supported the fire. “Weather conditions were hot, dry and windy.”
In addition to ground troops with heavy equipment, a Michigan State Police helicopter, four USDA Forest Service firefighter aircraft and a Type 1 helicopter assisted in fighting the blaze, the DNR said.
State Rep. Ken Borden, R-Gaillard, visited the DNR arena Saturday to talk with people on the front lines and get more information and report back to his constituents, he told the Petoskey News-Review.
“I represent a very large district, and of course Grayling is at the heart of it, so I’ve heard a lot from people in the surrounding districts about whether it’s moving their way or not,” Borden said.
Evacuees were sheltered at Beaver Creek Township Hall.
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The DNR recommends staying indoors with windows closed to avoid smoke and driving carefully due to reduced visibility.
Crews fighting the fire in addition to DNR firefighters: Michigan State Police, USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Grayling Station 2, Grayling Public Safety, Gaylord City Fire Department and fire departments from Grayling Township, Kalkaska, Blue Lake, Beaver Creek, Markey Township , Higgins Township, Richfield Township, South Branch Township, Frederick Township, Otsego County, Cold Springs and Denton Township fire departments.
Unprecedented heat and dry conditions for this year in Michigan have created extreme fire danger.
In response to the Crawford County fire and a small fire in Iosco County, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer activated the state’s Emergency Operations Center, according to a news release from the governor’s office Saturday.
“Today, I am activating our State Emergency Operations Center to respond to the wildfires in northern Michigan with all hands,” Whitmer said in the statement. “By taking this action, we can ensure that state and local first responders have what it takes to contain these fires and prevent loss of life or property. I want to thank the first responders who worked to keep Michiganders safe.
The Iosco County fire has been contained at 200-300 acres, according to the governor. Five people were evacuated but are expected to return to their homes later that evening.