DNR shares vehicle safety tips to prevent wildfires

The DNR said chains and other tie-downs dragging from a trailer can be dangerous because of the...
The DNR said chains and other tie-downs dragging from a trailer can be dangerous because of the sparks it can create.(Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 3:06 PM EDT
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MICHIGAN (WNEM) - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said there are many ways a vehicle can accidentally start a wildfire and shared tips to keep motorists aware while they are on the road.

The advice is shared after a wildfire started in Grayling Township on Saturday afternoon, which DNR officials believe started from a campfire on private property. The DNR said fire danger is very high to extreme in most parts of Michigan and is expected to continue with the current hot, dry weather conditions.

Related: DNR: Grayling wildfire more than 90% contained

The DNR said vehicles can also accidentally start a wildfire.

“Nope. We are not pulling your chain. We’re hoping you’re not either,” the DNR said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, June 6.

According to the DNR, chains and other tie-downs dragging from a trailer can be dangerous because of the sparks it can create. Since fire conditions are so extreme, a spark from a chain or grasses touching a hot exhaust pipe can ignite a wildfire.

Tire blowouts/driving on the rim with a flat tire and driving with brakes that are worn too thin are things that can cause sparks, which could lead to accidentally igniting a wildfire, the DNR said.

Even parking a vehicle over dry grasses or leaves is dangerous in extreme fire conditions, according to the DNR.

The following are tips the DNR shared for motorists to keep in mind while they are on the road:

  • Ensure chains, ratchet straps, and other trailer materials are appropriately connected and secured;
    • Chains should be no longer than what is necessary to allow the trailer to turn. Long chains can drag, even when properly attached to the hitch.
  • Proper maintenance of vehicles is of utmost importance, both for tire wear and regular brake inspections;
  • Do not park vehicles that have been running on top of tall dry grass or over leaf litter;
  • Install spark arresters on your off-road dirt bikes and motorcycles; and
  • Be prepared with a fire extinguisher in your vehicle.

According to Dr. Frank Marsik, a climate expert at the University of Michigan, there has been research that suggests wildfire smoke could actually suppress rainfall.

Related: Climate expert explains impact of fire smoke on potential rainfall

In 2018, scientists with Northwest Research Associates found that smoke particles created denser clouds with five times as many water droplets than clouds not influenced by smoke. Marsik said that smaller particles makes smaller cloud droplets, which in turn makes it harder for them to grow into rain droplets to fall.

Until we get the rain that is needed, Patrick Ertel, a public information officer with the DNR, said it is up to everyone to help prevent wildfires so more particles aren’t added to the atmosphere.

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