DNR News: Cleaner campfires, firefighter appreciation, respect for public lands & more

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News Digest - Week of May 3, 2021

fire header

Keep your campfire safe and clean when cooking tasty fireside fare.

Some of this week's stories may reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customers' needs and protect public health and safety. We will continue to share news and information about the best ways to enjoy our state's natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on access to facilities and programs. For public health guidelines and news, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Here's a look at some of this week's stories:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below are available at the end of this email.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Trek through the trees

proud lake rec area

Want to see more pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Kari Carr at Proud Lake Recreation Area in Oakland County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

Build a cleaner campfire for a better s’more


Marshmallows, hot dogs and kebabs are classic fireside fare. Peaches are trending, and there’s no better way to start the day than with a cast-iron skillet breakfast fresh off the fire. We’re talking campfire cooking and bonfire season! 

As we welcome these summer traditions, Air Quality Awareness Week – May 3-7 this year – reminds us to keep campfires safe and clean by carefully choosing what they’re made from. In a crowded environment like a campground or neighborhood, making fires out of the right materials is especially important for protecting the health and safety of yourself and those around you. 

To start, build a campfire out of the driest, most well-seasoned wood you can find. Get it locally to avoid spreading invasive insects and tree diseases, and make sure to burn it all before you leave for another location. Dry wood produces the least amount of irritating smoke, meaning you’ll spend less time repositioning around the fire ring chanting a version of “I hate white rabbits” in an attempt to ward off those pesky clouds.

Natural materials like wood, brush and branches can be burned. However, avoid burning treated wood, which often can be identified by a manufacturer’s stamp and a greenish color. Treated wood releases arsenic or other chemicals in the air when burned.

Likewise, don’t toss trash, plastic food wrappers, foam cups or hazardous materials in your campfire – it’s illegal, not to mention stinky and unhealthy. If you plan to cook a s'mores or other foods over the fire, it’s worth the extra effort to properly dispose of trash to keep the air clean and keep a bad taste out of your mouth. 

Use the Michigan Recycling Directory to learn where to recycle difficult-to-dispose materials.

Get fire safety information at Michigan.gov/PreventWildfires and learn about air quality at Michigan.gov/OpenBurning.

Questions? Contact Paul Rogers at 616-260-8406.

May 4 is Firefighter Appreciation Day

prescribed burn

Smoke on the horizon and flickering flames in the trees are a woodland homeowner’s worst nightmare. With 19.3 million acres of forest land in Michigan, wildfire is a real threat, and DNR firefighters are ready to respond. The department employs about 50 fire officers and more than 330 fire-trained staff overall.

May 4, International Firefighters’ Day (aka Firefighter Appreciation Day), recognizes the courage of firefighters and remembers those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Fallen firefighters in Michigan are honored at the Fireman’s Memorial in Roscommon. 

When a wildfire is reported, DNR firefighters spring into action, heading toward the danger with water trucks, bulldozers, fire-detection aircraft and hand equipment. They respond to hundreds of wildfires every year on public and private lands, working to keep people safe and to protect homes, businesses and nature. 

“Being a wildland firefighter isn’t just a job,” said DNR state fire supervisor Dan Laux. “Our team is passionate about what they do.” 

DNR firefighters help local fire departments in the field and provide aid to other states in need, sharpening their skills and giving crews essential relief, as they did during last year’s historic western fire season. So far this year, DNR firefighters have responded to 159 wildfires, which have burned 1,440 acres in Michigan. 

The job is much more complex and demanding than just putting out fires.

DNR firefighters also conduct prescribed burns: intentionally set fires that are carefully managed to improve wildlife habitat and remove invasive species. In 2019, they conducted 92 burns on almost 9,000 acres of land. Firefighters are responsible for helping maintain the state’s forest road system, keeping their equipment in tip-top shape, assisting with forest cultivation work and sharing fire-prevention education with schools and communities.

Many firefighters are part of specially trained incident management teams that respond to nearly any type of emergency. Recently, they’ve assisted with recovery from the historic floods in Houghton and Midland counties, helped establish a medical site for the 2021 presidential inauguration and performed site logistics for COVID-19 care and vaccination locations in southeast Michigan. 

Interested in training to become a DNR firefighter? Connect with a fire officer in your area to learn about opportunities.

Spring cleaning? Remember public land is not a trash can

dumped tv

Spring is a popular time to declutter, clean and organize. Unfortunately, many people discard items they no longer need – and their trash – on state-managed land, along the road or even on another person’s private property.

Dumping old mattresses, tires or televisions or even throwing your bag of fast food out the window while driving is illegal – and something DNR conservation officers take very seriously.

“Spring is always a really busy time for conservation officers receiving complaints about illegal dumping,” said Lt. Gerald Thayer, the DNR’s district law supervisor in Plainwell. “People don’t want to pay to get rid of their old belongings or garbage pickup, and think they’ll get away with leaving it in a rural area. There are all kinds of ways conservation officers can track garbage – whether it’s a piece of mail, a receipt or a barcode.”

You can dispose of discarded items and garbage at your local landfill or trash and recycling drop-off center or find disposal sites in your area. Some communities offer a free spring cleanup – check with your local township. When hiring a waste hauler, ask for landfill receipts to ensure trash is being disposed of responsibly.

If you come across discarded items or garbage on state-managed public land, immediately call or text the Report All Poaching hotline at 1-800-292-7800.

Questions? Contact Lt. Gerald Thayer at ThayerG@Michigan.gov.


Now's a great time to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails. Find the perfect trail for your next trek, and remember tips for trail etiquette.


May is Water Safety Month. Make sure you're up to date on safety tips and have your boater safety certificate.


Passionate about an outdoor recreation activity and helping others enjoy it safely? Volunteer as a recreational safety instructor!

PHOTOS: Credit Michigan Department of Natural Resources unless otherwise noted.

Campfire: Air Quality Awareness Week is May 3-7 this year. Always make sure to build campfires out of dry, well-seasoned wood, and avoid throwing trash or wrappers in the fire.

Prescribed burn: May 4 is Firefighter Appreciation Day, recognizing the courage of firefighters and remembering those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

TV: Spring is a great time for cleaning up and starting the season fresh, but don't throw out unwanted items or trash on state-managed land. Always dispose of waste properly and help keep public lands clean for everyone.

Stay informed, stay safe: Mask up MichiganDNR COVID-19 response