By Craig McMorris, TV5 Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
LANSING, MI (WNEM) -
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced that, starting Friday, residents in the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula who call the DNR's toll-free number to check if burn permits are being issued will be connected with a new, automated, interactive voice-recognition system.
Bill O'Neill, chief of the DNR's Forest Resources Division, said the cost-saving system allows users to identify their burning location through speech or touchtone entries. The information will be processed, and if conditions are favorable, burn permit issuance will be confirmed. The automated system will also inform callers if any burn restrictions are in place for that day.
"The new system will speed up the permit process, yet continue to provide users the guidance needed to complete their burns safely," said O'Neill, who also serves as state forester. "The savings from this switch allow us to channel much-needed funding into programs that are necessary to keep our forests healthy, viable and attractive to residents and visitors alike. We'd like to thank those who loyally use our online and telephone burn permit systems to ensure they are conducting safe burns."
Residents are required to check if the DNR is issuing burn permits before conducting any open burning - recreational campfires and fires used for cooking are the exceptions to this rule.
Paul Kollmeyer, DNR fire prevention specialist, said burn permits are especially important with residents doing final yard cleanup before heavy snowfall.
"Burning yard debris requires more than a rake and a match," Kollmeyer said. "Carelessness remains the leading cause of wildfires in Michigan, which is why precautions need to be taken. Ensuring that burn permits are being issued before you light a fire is a quick, easy and free process that can prevent fires from escaping if burn restrictions are in place."
The DNR encourages residents with internet access to visit www.michigan.gov/burnpermit to get their burn permits online. Residents can use the interactive map to find the burn conditions in their area.
If a "yes" is shown in the "burning permits issued" column, burning is allowed for that day. There is no need to print anything; this serves as a burn permit. For those who prefer to get their burn permits by phone, the DNR's toll-free burn permit number is 866-922-2876.